Doctors don’t always prescribe appropriate medications for seniors

Joliet patients often trust that their doctors know what they are doing when prescribing a medication. But based on the results of a new study that was published last month, patients in Illinois should be more skeptical when their doctors prescribe drugs.

After analyzing nearly 20 different studies that had collected data on prescription drug use, researchers concluded that about 20 percent of patients who are 65 or older are prescribed drugs that are not safe for them to take. Taking a drug that is not necessary or not appropriate makes patients extremely vulnerable to serious or fatal medication errors.

Medication errors include: negligent dosing, prescribing the wrong drug for an illness, serious or fatal drug interactions, allergic reactions, and other negative side effects. According to researchers who conducted the study, older patients are more vulnerable to suffering complications from medication errors compared to younger patients because they may already be taking a variety of medications and because they may suffer from other health problems that could increase their risk of serious injury from medical errors.

This means that doctors must consider how any newly prescribed medications will interact with other drugs that a patient is already taking. Doctors must also consider how a patient’s current health issues could affect how quickly or slowly drugs are metabolized.

Researchers concluded that about one out of five patients who are 65 or older are being prescribed drugs that could be more harmful to their health because doctors are not considering some of these important factors before prescribing medications for seniors.

To avoid becoming a victim of a medication error, patients should feel comfortable asking their doctors any questions they have about the safety and benefits of the drugs they are taking. Patients should always ask their physicians about the different side effects that are associated with each medication and how a medication could interact with any prescription drugs they are already taking.

Source: Scientific American, “1 in 5 Rx’s for Seniors Is Inappropriate,” Katherine Harmon, Aug. 22, 2012


Medication Errors

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