OAPs hooked on a cock­tail of drugs EX­CLU­SIVE

Sunday Express - - News - By Lucy John­ston HEALTH ED­I­TOR

THE Queen’s for­mer doc­tor has called for spe­cial­ist medics to make rou­tine vis­its to care homes and GP surg­eries to en­sure pen­sion­ers are not over-pre­scribed drugs.

Pro­fes­sor Sir Richard Thomp­son, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Royal Col­lege of Physi­cians, spoke out amid fears that a gen­er­a­tion of peo­ple over the age of 65 are be­ing over­med­i­cated.

He said pen­sion­ers have be­come in­creas­ingly treated with cock­tails of drugs, fu­elling record hospi­tal ad­mis­sions due to side ef­fects such as falls.

He spoke as fig­ures show the num­ber of pre­scrip­tions for painkillers and an­tide­pres­sants have al­most dou­bled in a decade with 91 mil­lion is­sued last year.

One in 10 pen­sion­ers over the age of 75 is now on at least 10 dif­fer­ent drugs, NHS pre­scrib­ing data shows, with sleep­ing pills, opi­ates and statins among the most com­mon med­i­ca­tions.

The av­er­age care home res­i­dent takes seven drugs, with med­i­ca­tion for de­men­tia, high blood pres­sure, heart dis­ease and di­a­betes among those com­monly taken.

Some of the drugs cause side ef­fects such as mus­cle pains, sleepi­ness or dizzi­ness while oth­ers, such as opi­ate­based painkillers and sleep­ing pills, can be­come ad­dic­tive or re­sult in ma­jor health prob­lems.

Sir Richard’s com­ments came as new fig­ures from the The Royal Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal So­ci­ety showed res­i­dents in nurs­ing homes in Eng­land re­ceive twice as many an­tibi­otics as those of the same age liv­ing in their own homes, po­ten­tially harm­ing their health and con­tribut­ing to the grow­ing prob­lem of drug-re­sis­tant su­per­bugs.

Sir Richard said: “Many of the treat­ments given out are ex­pen­sive and of­ten side ef­fects are not out­weighed by the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits. In many cases peo­ple are be­ing kept heav­ily se­dated whilst suf­fer­ing un­nec­es­sary side ef­fects.

“These medicines are not only po­ten­tially do­ing harm but also can we af­ford them?”

He added: “This is an ur­gent prob­lem. Hospi­tal-based spe­cial­ists in el­derly care should be work­ing in care homes and go­ing to GP surg­eries, vis­it­ing every month or two to re­view pa­tient drug reg­i­mens and ed­u­cate staff.”

Last March Si­mon Stevens, the head of the NHS, or­dered the de­ploy­ment of phar­ma­cists to carry out checks on every care home in the coun­try to re­view rou­tine med­i­ca­tion pre­scrip­tions.

Mr Stevens said: “Let’s face it, the pol­icy of ‘a pill for every ill’ is of­ten caus­ing frail older peo­ple more health prob­lems than it’s solv­ing.”

Sir Richard said: “Phar­ma­cists have an im­por­tant part to play but they are not doc­tors with a spe­cial­ism in this area so they can­not make clin­i­cal de­ci­sions, nor lay out care plans.”

Fig­ures from NHS Dig­i­tal show the num­ber of pre­scrip­tions is­sued for an­tide­pres­sants con­tin­ues to rise, with a dou­bling from 33.8 mil­lion in 2007 to 67.5 mil­lion pre­scrip­tions last year

Mean­while, the num­ber of pre­scrip­tions for opi­ate-based painkillers rose by 78 per cent from 13.4 mil­lion to 23.8 mil­lion pre­scrip­tions over the same pe­riod.

San­dra Gi­d­ley, chair­woman of the Royal Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal So­ci­ety Eng­land, said the preva­lence of an­tibi­otics in nurs­ing homes was a con­cern.

She said: “Far too many nurs­ing home res­i­dents are get­ting an­tibi­otics they don’t need. “In­ap­pro­pri­ate use of an­tibi­otics is fu­elling the rise of an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance. We need to pre­vent un­nec­es­sary harm to our frail el­derly pop­u­la­tion.”

CALL FOR AC­TION: Sir Richard Thomp­son

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