By Lola Augustine Brown
New research out of the University of Toronto suggests that the more drugs seniors are prescribed, the greater the risk they’ll end up in hospital.
Recently published in the Journal of Health Services Research, the study analyzed health date from Ontario to determine the relationship between the number of prescription drugs people were on and how many times they were ended up in the ER or were hospitalized. Researchers found that the risk for hospital visits grew with each additional drug prescribed. The average number of different prescription drugs used by the seniors studied was seven per year.
Alone, these prescription drugs may not have a high risk for side effects, but combining drugs can cause serious short- and long-term problems for older people, especially when those drugs are opioids, anti-psychotics, and painkillers. And then yet more drugs may be given to counter the side effects of those prescriptions.
Given that two-thirds of doctors’ visits result in a prescribed medication, according to the report—in part because patients expect to be prescribed something when they go to the doctor—Canadians are taking a lot of drugs.
The study suggested that doctors need to be closely monitored to ensure they are prescribing the right drugs and staying on top of what drugs patients are already taking. Another suggestion was that patient education was key, so that people are better able to advocate for themselves and their loved ones.