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Older patients 'may be taking too many drugs and not as prescribed'

Older patients 'may be taking too many drugs and not as prescribed'
13th November 2015

Doctors are concerned that older patients may be taking too many drugs and not using them as prescribed. 

This is according to the results of a new survey carried out by Pharmacy Voice, which found GPs believe more than half of their patients over the age of 75 could benefit from taking less medication. 

Some 80 per cent of doctors said they think older patients are not taking their medicines as prescribed.

At present, between 35 and 40 per cent of the UK's 5.1 million over-75s take more than four treatments. It is estimated that people in this age group account for at least 45 per cent of the nation's annual prescription cost of £8.9 billion.

Dr Michael Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance and a Devon GP, commented: "While there are many reasons why older people need to take a number of medicines, we are nowhere near quantifying the effects of taking multiple medicines concurrently, especially in older patients. 

"Many are confused by the sheer numbers of medicines they have been prescribed, and their health and quality of life is adversely affected when these medicines fail to treat the underlying condition because they are not taken correctly."

This study has coincided with research from Manchester University and the University of Nottingham, published by BMJ, that claimed one in every 100 patients are at risk of a prescribing error from their GP. 

Responding to the claim, Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, stated: "Prescribing is a core skill for GPs. We follow strict and robust monitoring systems and patients can be assured that their family doctor will prescribe medication only when absolutely necessary and alternative treatments have been explored."

She added that more effective ways of looking after elderly people with multiple conditions are required and suggested new initiatives, such as having pharmacists work as part of local practice teams, could prove effective. 

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