Consumer group targets elderly medicine habits

Up to 40 per cent of older Australians take five or more medications each day.

Approximately 40 per cent of Australians aged 65 and over are taking five or more medications at the same time, according to CHOICE.

The influential consumer group is calling for widespread reforms to help older patients, doctors and pharmacists reduce the risk of mixing medications.

It says the rise in medication use is increasing the likelihood of side effects and adverse interactions with prescription drugs and over-the-counter remedies.

CHOICE research shows that many older people are taking unnecessary medicines and some are even ‘doubling up’ on certain medications. There are also concerns that some older people are not taking enough medicine because of confusion, neglect and cost.

Adverse drug events account for over 14,000 hospital admissions each year but it is estimated that as many as half of them are ‘avoidable’.

Cardiovascular drugs are the most common culprits in adverse medicine interactions.

CHOICE suggested that Australia adopt the US concept of ‘brown-bag days’, where older people take all their medicines to GPs to check for necessity, potential for interactions and expired use-by dates.

“There’s a real need for elderly people and their carers to regularly do a drug ‘stocktake’ to ensure that all the medicines they are taking are compatible with each other, and that the patient isn’t doubling up through different doctors or different prescriptions,” said CHOICE spokesman Christopher Zinn.

“Those most at risk from adverse effects from overmedicating are those who take five or more medicines a day, have language difficulties, suffer from poor eyesight or dementia or attend several different doctors.”

Tags: choice, medication-management, medicine,

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