US healthcare: 34% of older people could be prescribed the wrong drugs

prescribed the wrong drugs, hospital
© Marilyn Gould

A new study found that it costs patients over $450 a year when they are prescribed the wrong drugs, making them twice as likely to go to hospital

Buffalo University researchers wanted to find out what real impact prescribing the wrong drugs had on healthcare costs. In the United States, healthcare remains highly contentious – especially the pricing of services and drugs themselves. Medication given wrongly can then multiply already concerning costs for a patient.

The team found that more than 34% of adults over the age of 65 were prescribed “problematic drugs” – what does that mean exactly?

“Although efforts to de-prescribe have increased significantly over the last decade, potentially inappropriate medications continue to be prescribed at a high rate among older adults in the United States,” says David Jacobs, PharmD, PhD, lead investigator and assistant professor of pharmacy practice in the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Collin Clark, PharmD, first author on the paper and clinical assistant professor in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, adds, “The average age of the U.S. population is rising, and older adults account for a disproportionate amount of prescription medications. Harm to older adults caused by potentially inappropriate medications is a major public health challenge.”

What about the impact on the human body?

As the human body ages, the risk of experiencing harmful side effects from medications increases. Potentially inappropriate medications are drugs that should be avoided by older adults due to these risks outweighing the benefits of the medication, or when effective but lower risk alternative treatments are available.

Patients who received these medications also spent an additional $458 on healthcare, including an extra $128 on prescription drugs.

The study, which was published in August in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, used the 2011-2015 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to examine the prescription of 33 potentially inappropriate medications or classes of medications to adults 65 and older.

Among the potentially inappropriate medications examined were antidepressants, barbiturates, androgens, estrogens, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, first-generation antihistamines, and antipsychotics.

Among the 218 million-plus older adults surveyed, more than 34% were prescribed at least one potentially inappropriate medication. Those patients were, on average, prescribed twice as many drugs, were nearly twice as likely to be hospitalised or visit the emergency department, and were more likely to visit a primary care physician compared to older adults who were not prescribed potentially inappropriate medication.

“De-prescribing is currently at an early stage in the United States. Further work is needed to implement interventions that target unnecessary and inappropriate medications in older adults.”

Read the full, CDC-approved study here.


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