Health risk for over-medicated elderly
· Julie Robotham
· January 5, 2009
ELDERLY people receive no benefit from long-term use of many common medicines, and their health may even improve if they stop taking them, an Australian study has found.
Ceasing to take medicines such as sleeping pills and antidepressants improved people's mental abilities and reduced the likelihood of serious falls, according to the analysis by David Le Couteur, director of the Centre for Education and Research on Ageing at the
In up to 85 per cent of people aged 65 or older, blood pressure was stable for six months to five years after withdrawal of blood pressure medicines, without any increase in the death rate.
Professor Le Couteur said his research was "in some ways a politically motivated exercise" intended to highlight the gulf between the results of drug company-sponsored trials and how elderly people actually fared on the same drugs.
"There's lots of money to show medicines work and very little money to show they don't," said Professor Le Couteur, who works as a geriatrician at
Evidence of the effects of taking multiple drugs was "almost non-existent", he said.
Bad reactions to medication were responsible for up to one-third of hospital admissions of older patients.
Among people 65 and older, 40 per cent were taking five or more medicines.