Prescribing costs increase dramatically when people reach 65, according to a detailed analysis of more than five million patients published in the March issue of the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.
Average costs were six-and-a-half times higher than for people under 65 and 16 times higher than for children under four.
When researchers from the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Barcelona looked at the primary care records of 5.47 million patients in Catalonia, they found that just under three-quarters had been prescribed at least one drug and that women were 23 per cent more likely to receive a prescription.
But the outstanding finding was the significant cost differences based on the ages of the patients. When the researchers looked at the average number of drugs that patients were prescribed, people over 75 had almost eight times as many prescriptions as children under four years of age.
And the cost differentials for people over 65 were much higher than the four-and-a half times increase reported by a previous study in 1993.
This is probably due to a number of factors explains lead researcher Professor Eduardo L Marino from the Facultys Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmacotherapy Unit. Our population is progressively ageing, we are better at detecting problems than 15 years ago and more expensive drugs are being developed.
Being able to predict prescribing costs is very important, he adds, especially when there are so many demands and pressures on healthcare budgets.
We looked at prescribing by gender, breaking down patients into ten age categories and analysing their use of 15 different categories of drugs he says.
This enabled us to build up a very clear picture of what sort of drugs people were taking, depending on their age and gender.
Other key findings of the study included:
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