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Drug Combinations Putting Seniors at Risk
Date:12/23/2008

Mixing prescription, nonprescription meds poses dangers, researchers say

TUESDAY, Dec. 23 (HealthDay News) -- As many as 4 percent of older adults in the United States combine over-the-counter medications with prescription drugs in ways that put them at risk for potentially dangerous interactions, a new survey finds.

A recent report estimated that adults over 65 account for more than 175,000 emergency department visits for adverse drug reactions each year, and commonly prescribed medications accounted for 33 percent of these drug reactions.

"The vast majority of older adults are using at least one medication and more adults are using more medications, particularly prescription medications, compared to a decade ago," said survey author Dima M. Qato, from the University of Chicago.

In addition, almost 30 percent of seniors are taking at least five prescription medications and many combine prescription and nonprescription drugs. Among commonly used medications, drug-to-drug interactions extend beyond prescription drugs, with nearly half involving the use of over-the-counter medications or dietary supplements.

"And despite limited availability of drug safety information for nonprescription medications, particularly dietary supplements, they are frequently used in older adults," Qato added.

Patients need to know that while medications are often beneficial, there are often risks associated with their use, Qato said.

"If they need to self-medicate with over-the-counter drugs or dietary supplements, they should consult with their physician or pharmacist. This is particularly important in older people because as people get older, they are more vulnerable to the negative effects of medications, including drug-to-drug interactions," Qato said.

The report is published in the Dec. 24/31 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For the study, Qato's team u
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