A recent study reveals that older adults, especially women, are at a higher risk of experiencing adverse drug reactions (ADRs) when prescribed multiple medications by their family doctors.

The study, published in the British Journal of General Practice, indicates that one in four older adults experience ADRs from medications their general practitioners (GPs) prescribed.

The Study: A Closer Look

The study monitored 592 patients aged 70 and older across 15 general practices in the Republic of Ireland over six years.

It found that patients prescribed 10 or more medications had a threefold increased risk of experiencing ADRs. Interestingly, women were at least 50% more likely to experience ADRs than men.

The medications most commonly associated with ADRs included those used to treat high blood pressure, cardiac conditions, strong painkillers like tramadol, and antibiotics like amoxicillin.

Adverse effects ranged from dry mouth and ankle swelling to headaches and nausea.

While most of the ADRs were mild and resolved independently, about 11% were moderate in severity, and eight patients had to be hospitalized due to their reactions.

The Underlying Factors

The study’s co-author, Prof. Emma Wallace from University College Cork, explains that the difference in risk between genders might be attributed to various factors.

Men and women can respond differently to medications; how their bodies process and break down medications can vary by sex. Additionally, the types of medications prescribed can differ between men and women.

The Call to Action: Deprescribing

The study has led to calls for GPs to consider deprescribing ineffective medications and to prioritize patients taking multiple drugs for regular reviews of their prescriptions.

Deprescribing, tapering, stopping, discontinuing, or using an alternative medication is one approach to reducing the risk of ADRs in older patients.

The Importance of Regular Reviews

As people age, they are more likely to live with several long-term health conditions that require multiple medications.

Prof. Wallace emphasizes the importance of regular medication reviews for older adults, especially those taking 10 or more long-term medications. These reviews can be conducted with their doctor or pharmacist.

Conclusion: A Balancing Act

The study highlights the importance of a balanced approach to prescribing medications for older adults. With the increasing number of prescribed medications, it is crucial for healthcare professionals to be vigilant and for patients to be proactive in managing their medications.

Regular reviews and deprescribing when necessary can significantly reduce the risk of adverse drug reactions and ensure the well-being of older adults.

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