Study Finds One in Five Seniors Prescribed Risky Medications

A recent study by Brown University researchers found that more than one-fifth of older patients in the United States were prescribed high-risk medications.

To conduct the study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the researchers examined demographic data of 6.2 million patients who were enrolled in the Medicare Advantage health care plans during 2009. They found that 21.5 percent of elderly patients – more than 1.3 million – were prescribed high-risk medications. Five percent received multiple high-risk medications.

Amal Trivedi, one of the researchers, said that high-risk medications should be avoided for seniors, as safer alternatives are usually available.

There are approximately 100 medications that are classified as high-risk for seniors. Many of these drugs do not carry risky side effects for younger people. The drugs include common medications such as Benadryl.

The researchers said the geographic variation was notable: patients living in the Southeast were 10 to 12 percent more likely to receive a high-risk prescription than those in the Northeast.

Researchers said that doctors are often unaware of the differing side effects for elderly patients.

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