NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 16, 2004

According to a study conducted by the Duke Clinical Research Institute, many elderly patients are being prescribed medications that are considered unsafe for patients 65 and older.

A pharmacy benefit manager's database of all prescriptions written in 1999 for 765,423 patients over 65 was compared by researchers with a published list of medications that are more likely to produce severe side effects in the elderly. The study revealed:

  • Some 21 percent of senior patients had been prescribed at least one drug on the list.
  • About 50 percent of those prescriptions were for drugs considered to have potential for serious adverse effects.
  • Around 15 percent of patients had received two drugs for the list, and 4 percent received three or more; the antidepressants amitriptyline and doxepin were the two most commonly prescribed inappropriate drugs.

The lead author of the research, Kevin Schulman, said the list of drugs used in the study was not ironclad, and in some cases, doctors might conclude that a certain drug on the list is the most appropriate treatment for a particular patient. However, he added, safer alternative medications for the elderly are available.

Source: John O'Neil, "RX Drugs: Many Seniors Receive Age-Inappropriate Medications," New York Times, August 10, 2004.


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