Prescription Drugs

  • Prescription drug use among Americans of all ages has increased steadily over the last 20 years. The percentage of people taking three or more medications doubled from 11 percent in 1988 to 22 percent in 2010; and the percentage of people taking five drugs or more nearly tripled.
  • The average ambulatory senior is on greater than five prescription medications at the same time.
  • Adverse drug reactions are among the top five threats to seniors’ health, and result in more than 500,000 emergency department visits each year.
  • Older people are more vulnerable to adverse drug reactions than younger people, due to differences in how drugs are metabolized, and due to being on greater numbers of medications.
  • Seniors age 65 or older are twice as likely to come to a hospital emergency department for adverse drug events and are nearly seven times more likely to be hospitalized after such a visit.
  • The most common drugs that require monitoring are blood thinners, diabetes medications, seizure medications, and heart medicine.
  • To best prevent adverse drug events, the following precautions are important:
    • Regularly review your medications with your physician and pharmacist.
    • Keep tedious records of drug schedules and utilize assistive technologies as needed to prevent taking drugs too frequently or not frequently enough.
    • Take pain relievers only as directed.
    • Ask your health care team to double-check for contraindications or drug interactions prior to taking a new medication.
      Double-check the label on each medication before taking it.

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