December 3, 2011

CANADA: One in four seniors takes 10 or more medications

TORONTO, Ontario / The Globe and Mail / Life / December 2, 2011

Tralee Pearce - Globe and Mail Blog

No wonder seniors need all those little pill boxes and organizers. A new study of seniors’ health has found that one in four Canadians aged 65 and up take 10 or more prescription medications.

The report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information also found that two thirds of seniors are taking at least five different medications. Researchers suggested the cause is likely overlapping health practitioners - and suggest more should be done to coordinate efforts and prevent potential mistakes.

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Kathleen Morris, CIHI's director of health system analysis and emerging issues, told CTV: "Some of those prescriptions may be coming from a family doctor, others may be coming from a specialist, and we know that seniors tend to take a lot of over-the-counter or drug store medications ... and they could also be taking vitamin supplements.

"So one of the challenges is managing all those different medications," including avoiding potentially dangerous drug interactions, she told CTV.

Groups that treat drug addiction have been sounding the alarm that seniors are at risk for addiction - some studies suggest about 17 per cent of seniors over 60 will experience prescription drug abuse and that more than 10 per cent of women over the age of 59 are currently addicted to prescription drugs.

Addictions aside, there are also big risks involved in non-addictive drugs. One recent study found that mix-ups involving common drugs such as diabetes pills and blood thinners are the most likely to land seniors in hospital for overdoses or dangerous reactions.

The CIHI findings were part of a broader look at seniors’ use of the health care system, which found that “...those in the 65-plus demographic are the most frequent users of health care, costing more than any other segment of the population,” reports CTV.

They represent 14 per cent of the population, but account for 40 per cent of hospital services and about 45 per cent of overall health spending, reports CTV. And by 2036, the researchers found that “those aged 65-plus are expected to make up one-quarter of the country's population and claim an even bigger piece of the health-services pie,” reports CTV.

Does it surprise you that Canadian seniors are taking so many medications? Should health care providers be paying closer attention to this issue?

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