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More Elderly Take Inappropriate and Harmful Medications

More than one in five elderly Americans living on their own takes a medication that could put them at risk for injuries and illness. According to the report, more than 21% of elderly Americans--representing nearly 7 million// individuals--had received at least one of these 33 potentially inappropriate medications in 1996.

Nearly 3% used a medication that elderly people should always avoid, including certain sedatives, long-acting drugs to bring down blood sugar levels, pain relievers and drugs to quell nausea. Patients in poor health, women and those who took the most medications were more likely to have been prescribed a potentially dangerous drug.

The fault lies with doctors, patients and researchers conducting studies on the safety and efficacy of drugs. Clinical trials usually exclude elderly people, especially those who have more than one condition. Doctors caring for elderly patients may not have special training in geriatric care, and patients may demand certain medications that have worked for them in the past.

Educating doctors and patients and conducting further research into the effectiveness of medications in elderly patients can help solve the problem.

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