Belfast Telegraph

Elderly 'given inappropriate drugs'

Seven out of 10 older people in nursing homes across Ireland are getting at least one inappropriately prescribed medicine, it has been claimed.

A cross-border study showed the cost of giving elderly patients the wrong drugs is about 356 euro per person in the Republic - more than double the 170 euro it costs in Northern Ireland.

Lead researcher Dr Stephen Byrne said inappropriate prescribing is a global problem which can lead to both minor and serious adverse drug events for older people.

"One of the most common instances is the risk of falls and fractures, leading to extended hospitalisation," he said.

The survey of 630 residents in long-term care in Northern Ireland and Cork was funded by the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland.

It found that nearly one fifth - 19% - of the sample were receiving three or more potentially inappropriate medicines; 73% of residents in the Republic were receiving at least one potentially inappropriate medicine; the figure dropped to 67% for those being cared for in the north; each was taking an average of 11 medicines - with half prescribed 8-14 daily medicines and some prescribed up to 26.

The study, which revealed the main drug involved was the sedative benzodiazepine, concluded inappropriate prescribing is a major area of concern and is a substantial burden to health services, but also warned the findings could not generalise long-term care facilities across the island due to the small sample size used in the study.

Age Action called on Health Minister Dr James Reilly to take immediate action, with spokesman Eamon Timmins saying: "The implications of these findings are very serious for the potential threat posed for older people's health, as well as the huge sums being paid by the state for medications which are not only not needed, but which may in fact be damaging people's health.

"Those with responsibility for the regulation and training of health professionals must address this problem and ensure adequate models of care are in place, as a matter of urgency."

Dr Byrne, of University College Cork, called on the administrations in Ireland, north and south, to make a valuable contribution to World Health Day on Thursday by announcing decisive action to reduce potentially inappropriate prescribing.

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