polypharmacy: keeping the elderly safe
because they take more medications than younger patients, the elderly have a higher risk of adverse reactions. here's how to help your older patients avoid trouble.
if your elderly patient takes several medications at the same time, he's at high risk for drug-related problems.1 elderly patients are particularly susceptible to polypharmacy issues not only because aging affects how their body handles medications, but because they take more medications than younger patients: in the united states, people over 65 make up approximately 13% of the population but use about 30% of all prescriptions written.2 at any given time, an elderly patient takes, on average, four or five prescription drugs and two over-the-counter (otc) medications.3
an elderly patient is also more likely to be taking a medication that has been prescribed inappropriately--one that's unnecessary, ineffective, or potentially dangerous--and to suffer an adverse drug event (ade). in a study of more than 150,000 elderly patients, 29% had received at least one of 33 potentially inappropriate drugs.4 a study of approximately 27,600 medicare patients documented more than 1,500 ades in a single year.5
most ades are the result of drug interactions; the more drugs a patient takes, the higher the risk of interactions.6 the estimated incidence of drug interactions rises from 6% in patients taking two medications a day to as high as 50% in patients taking five a day.7
as the elderly population in the united states continues to grow, so will the incidence of ades. you can help your elderly patients avoid the negative consequences of polypharmacy by understanding how aging affects the body's reaction to medications, which drugs are the most problematic for older patients, and how to spot a drug-related problem and intervene.
polypharmacy: keeping the elderly safe - rnweb