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

sed survey data collected on more than 3,000 adults aged 57 to 85. The researchers looked for all medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, used between June 2005 and March 2006.

The researchers found that 91 percent of U.S. adults, about 50.5 million, used at least one medication regularly. Prescription medicines were used by 81 percent of adults, or 44.9 million older Americans. Most medications were used by those 75 to 85 years old.

In addition, almost 50 percent of older adults used at least one over-the-counter medication or dietary supplement. More women than men used prescription medications and dietary supplements. However, the use of over-the-counter medications was the same for men and women, the researchers found.

More than 50 percent of those surveyed used five or more prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications or dietary supplements. Among those taking prescription medications, 29 percent used more than five drugs and drug use increased with age among both men and women, Qato's group reports.

In addition, the researchers found that 68 percent of older adults used prescription drugs plus over-the-counter medications or dietary supplements. Among those combining drugs, 4 percent were in danger of having an adverse drug reaction.

Moreover, the rate of adverse drug interactions increased with age, particularly among women. Over 50 percent of these interactions involved the use of over-the-counter medications, the researchers found.

The most common adverse interactions occurred with blood thinners such as warfarin and antiplatelet drugs such as aspirin, Qato's group found.

"Physicians and pharmacists need to ask older patients about all the medications they use -- prescription and nonprescription -- and patients need to be prepared to share this information," Qato said. "This is especially important in patients who see multiple providers and patients that fill at multiple
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