Wednesday, August 11, 2004

A new study, published by the Archives for Internal Medicine, indicate something that many of us already knew: that inappropriate drug prescription for people over 65 is a serious problem. When you consider that most medicines are prescribed in unnecessarily high doses to everyone, it is certainly no surprise that older people are at risk.

The study found that more than one in five persons over 65 receive prescriptions for at least one drug that is not appropriate. The inability of older people to metabolize drugs as well as younger people can cause serious side effects, and the vast combinations of drugs given to some older people can also cause serious problems.

Making the problem worse is the fact that many people who are in the 70's and 80's grew up at at time when "Dr. God" was the medical model. Their parents did not question the doctor, so they don't. But it is imperative that people over 65 (and everyone else, for that matter) read about their medications, talk with their pharmacists about their medications, report all side effects, and ask questions of their doctors.

Doctors who patronize older people should be fired, and geriatric specialists should be consulted whenever possible. A trusted (not always easy to find) doctor should regularly review all of the medications prescribed to an older person. Toxic doses of pain medications and antidepressants are all too common, and side effects such as confusion and dizziness are often relegated to the "well, she's getting old" status.

Of course, this entire discussion presupposes the notion that people over 65 are able to buy their prescribed drugs. Many are not.

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