study 20 of medications prescribed by primary care mds for seniors are inappropriate

For many seniors, the office of their primary care physician is the first stop when they are feeling ill or suffering from some sort of medical condition. Here, they can discuss their health openly with a physician whom they trust and rely upon to provide the appropriate course of treatment.

More often than not, this treatment will involve some sort of prescription drug regimen. However, a shocking study published in the latest edition of the science journal PLoS One reveals that 20 percent of all prescriptions written by primary care specialists for patients over age 65 can actually be classified as “inappropriate.”

An inappropriate prescription drug was classified by researchers as one that satisfied any of the following criteria:

  • It presents a higher risk of complications than another drug that is similarly effective
  • It is insufficient for treating the patient’s condition
  • It is under-prescribed, mis-prescribed or over-prescribed

Here, the researchers arrived at their conclusion after examining data gathered from 19 other similar studies examining prescribing patterns for senior citizens.

“In spite of increasing attention to the quality of medication prescription among elderly persons presenting to the primary care setting, there are still high overall rates of inappropriate medication prescription,” reads the study.

According to the study authors, seniors are most likely to receive an inappropriate prescription from their primary care specialist for the following medications:

  • Pain reliever Darvon (Propoxyphene)
  • Antidepressants Elavil, Endep, Vanatrip (Amitriptiline)
  • Beta-blocker Cardura (Doxazosin)
  • Antihistamine Benadryl, etc.(Diphenhydramine )

It’s important for all primary care doctors to take great care when prescribing drugs for seniors as they are frequently at an elevated risk of a dangerous drug interactions since they are likely taking other medications. Furthermore, many seniors frequently suffer from diminished kidney and/or liver function, which can affect the metabolism of certain drugs.

Curiously, the authors advise that more primary care offices should utilize some sort of electronic health record system that is designed to alert physicians as to what medications a particular senior is taking and whether a better (i.e., more appropriate or safer) prescription drug is available.

As we’ve discussed in prior posts, electronic medical records are certainly not the whole answer to these types of issues. The real solution is for primary care physicians to actually take the time to consult with patients, examine their charts and perform the necessary research in order to avoid prescription errors and, most importantly, provide effective treatment.

Source: Scientific American, “1 in 5 Rx’s for seniors in inappropriate,” Katherine Harmon, Aug. 22, 2012

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