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Doctors may be able to reduce the number of prescription drugs older patients take

Dublin, Ireland – Do Seniors Really Need to Take a Plethora of Different Medicines to Stay Healthy? A new study finds that many patients could and probably should throw away some of their prescriptions that are no longer beneficial to their health.

Researchers at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences have found that medical interventions by a patient’s doctor can eliminate old drugs that can combine with other drugs to cause more harm than good. For many seniors, the number of prescription drugs they take seems to increase with their age. Previous studies show that one in three older Americans is taking prescription drugs that are not suited to their symptoms or that could cause further harm.

Unfortunately, an increasing number of older people are also living with more than one medical or multimorbidity problem. Healthcare providers often prescribe medications that treat each of these conditions, leaving the patient or their caregivers to juggle all of these prescriptions.

Real intervention can eliminate bad prescriptions

To remedy this, the researchers looked at the results of the SPPiRE project (or Supporting prescribing in older people with multimorbidity and significant polypharmacy in primary care). The study included 51 general practitioners and 404 patients in Ireland, inviting older patients taking at least 15 medications to participate in a review of their medications by their doctor.

The review included a screening of each prescription to determine which ones were inappropriate to take together, which ones patients were able to stop taking, and which medications should be a priority for patients. The results show that doctors were able to remove more than 800 drugs among 208 participants in the intervention.

After removing the 800+ drugs, the researchers noted only 15 possible side effects of ending these prescriptions. Almost all of the adverse events were a mild reaction to stopping treatment and these symptoms resolved once the doctors put the patients back on that particular drug.

“It is possible that identifying this risk group for whom at least 15 drugs were prescribed has in itself improved prescribing,” explains Dr Caroline McCarthy, Clinical Lecturer and Research Fellow in the Department of Medicine. General of the RCSI. , in one university outing.

“It can be intimidating for GPs with limited time and resources to actively manage these prescriptions, and patients can also be wary of change, especially if they have been on a medication for a long time,” adds Dr. McCarthy.

“The intervention approach to manage this difficult problem is promising and demonstrates that, even in this very complex group, stopping drugs that may no longer be needed or appropriate is both possible and generally safe,” concludes Professor Susan Smith, Associate Director of HRB. Primary Care Clinical Trials Network.

The results appear in the newspaper PLOS Medicine.

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Joan J. Dean

The author Joan J. Dean