Fears for 2m pen­sion­ers tak­ing mul­ti­ple drugs

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Laura Don­nelly Health ed­i­tor

TWO mil­lion pen­sion­ers are tak­ing at least seven pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tions – putting them at risk of lethal side ef­fects, a re­port has warned.

Age UK said three quar­ters of older pa­tients were likely to suf­fer ad­verse re­ac­tions be­cause of what it called “polyphar­macy”.

The num­ber of emer­gency hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sions linked to such side-ef­fects has risen by 53 per cent in seven years.

Min­is­ters have or­dered a re­view of over­pre­scrib­ing, amid warn­ings that the drugs bill has risen from £13 bil­lion to more than £18bil­lion in seven years.

One in five of the 1.97mil­lion peo­ple over re­tire­ment age were on at least seven types of drug. And a quar­ter of those over 85 were on at least eight.

Ex­perts said GPS were too busy to con­sider com­plex health prob­lems prop­erly, in­clud­ing the risk of side-ef­fects and drug in­ter­ac­tions.

Car­o­line Abra­hams, di­rec­tor at Age UK, said: “There are so many ef­fec­tive drugs avail­able to treat older peo­ple’s health con­di­tions, but it’s a big po­ten­tial prob­lem if singly or in com­bi­na­tion these drugs pro­duce side ef­fects that ul­ti­mately do more harm than good.”

The char­ity said all older peo­ple tak­ing long-term medicines should be sub­ject to medicine re­views, with “zero tol­er­ance of in­ap­pro­pri­ate polyphar­macy”.

Ms Abra­hams urged pen­sion­ers on mul­ti­ple med­i­ca­tions to talk to their GP.

“Most older peo­ple would agree that the fewer pills they have to pop, the bet­ter,” she said.

Side-ef­fects such as con­fu­sion, dizzi­ness and delir­ium can re­sult in el­derly peo­ple be­ing rushed to hos­pi­tal or worse.

A 2015 study in Spain found those tak­ing six medicines or more a day were nearly three times as likely to die pre­ma­turely than those on no drugs at all.

A re­view of over­pre­scrib­ing is ex­pected to be re­ported on next year. Next month Pub­lic Health Eng­land will pub­lish find­ings from an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of pre­scrip­tion drug addiction, amid con­cern about the ris­ing num­ber of peo­ple hooked on opi­ate painkiller­s, anti-anx­i­ety drugs and an­tide­pres­sants.

NHS fig­ures show that one in 11 adults have been pre­scribed po­ten­tially ad­dic­tive drugs in the past year – with a 50 per cent rise in pre­scrib­ing levels over 15 years.

Min­is­ters said de­ci­sive ac­tion was needed to stop the prob­lem be­com­ing as se­ri­ous as in the US.

Two thirds of those on “de­pen­dence-form­ing medicines” are fe­male, typ­i­cally in their 50s and 60s, ac­cord­ing to na­tional re­search.

Dr Keith Ridge, Eng­land’s chief phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal of­fi­cer, said: “We know many pa­tients are pre­scribed medicines they may no longer need or which should be ad­justed.”

For that rea­son, the NHS Long Term Plan was al­ready fund­ing “ex­pert phar­macy teams across the coun­try”, he said. Peo­ple with longterm ill­nesses were “of­ten tak­ing mul­ti­ple medicines for sev­eral con­di­tions”, Dr Ridge added.

The teams would sup­ply sup­port to staff, he said. “The NHS is in­vest­ing in thou­sands of new clinical phar­ma­cists to work with GPS and care homes to carry out med­i­ca­tion re­views with vul­ner­a­ble pa­tients.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.