Most elderly patients don't use prescription meds properly

Fewer than one in every eight elderly patients takes medicines appropriately, a practice linked to an increased risk of hospitalization or death, according to a study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

The Belgian-based researchers surveyed 503 adults age 80 or above and functioning without cognitive difficulty, over the course of 18 months. Of that group, almost 60 percent took five or more medications daily, and of those, only 17 percent took them in the appropriate amount and as directed.

The medical community has long been concerned about inappropriate use of medications, particularly antibiotics, as well as patients who fail to take their medications even when they pick up their prescription, as FiercePracticeManagement has previously reported. Gisele Wolf-Klein, M.D., director of geriatric education at Northwell Health in Great Neck, New York, told CBS News the study underscores the fact that underuse of medications has serious implications as well. Patients can become depressed and fail to take drugs because they don’t believe they will help, she says, or they may skip doses due to the high cost of their prescriptions.

Physicians need to take greater care when prescribing medications in order to attempt to avoid the negative outcomes associated with underuse, which occurs more frequently than taking too many medications or using unsafe ones, says Maarten Wauters of Ghent University, one of the study’s authors. “Prescribing medications to older persons should be done after careful thought, balancing the benefits and risk of every medication at regular intervals,” he advises.

Wolf-Klein suggests caregivers take extra time to ensure patients don’t have any trouble taking their medications. Even something as seemingly minor as the size of a tablet could lead to reluctance to take a medication. She also suggests doctors have patients bring their pill bottles to their office visit and count pills to detect and address underutilization.

- here’s the study

- read the CBS News article