25% Of Seniors Get Wrong Drugs

November 5, 2008

So much for learning from our mistakes.  21 years ago a major study showed 1 in 4 seniors got the wrong prescription drugs.

The study was conducted by Dr. Steffi Woolhandler of Harvard Medical School in 1987 which concluded that close to a quarter of all Americans 65 or older were given prescriptions for drugs that they should almost never take.  The drugs were ineffective, not needed, or caused serious side effects.

Dr. Jerry H. Gurwitz of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston wrote an editorial about the study and said that he hoped it would serve as “a wake-up call.  I hope that the medical community will take it as seriously as the general public”

Fast forward 21 years and guess what? Not only did the medical community not take it seriously, things have gotten worse!

Just this year the Veterans Administration Health Services Research funded a similar study.  The results – now 26.2 percent of patients over 65 were given drugs identified as inappropriate or suboptimal for older patients.

According to Alex Federman, M.D. assistant professor of medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, seniors should make sure they have a good primary care doctor, and a geriatrician may be a particularly good choice for some older adults, especially those with multiple chronic diseases and complex health issues.

Bottom line, seniors need to ask questions.  The odds are one in four that you are taking inappropriate or suboptimal drugs.