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Drugs and Aging

Adverse Drug Reactions, Adverse Drug Reactions And Health Care Utilization, Medication Use In The Older PopulationConclusion

Medication use by older people continues to receive attention in the lay media and in medical literature. People age sixty-five and over make up approximately 13 percent of the total population, yet they consume about 40 percent of all medications (Jones-Grizzle et al.). This rate of medication use among seniors coincides with the rate of many chronic diseases, which rise sharply with age. For example, arthritis, high blood pressure, and angina are reported by 47 percent, 43 percent, and 31 percent, respectively, by people age sixty-five years or older.

Patterns of medication use by seniors living at home or in nursing homes have previously been described (Avorn et al.; Chrischilles et al; and Cooper). In general, seniors living at home consume three to eight medications, with an increase in use with increasing age, for females, and for those with poor self-reported health (Chrischilles and Cooper). In the nursing home the number of ordered medications ranges from four to nine (Beers 1992).

The most commonly used classes of medications generally reflect the types of diseases that seniors have (Table 1). For example, the most commonly used medication classes are drugs for high blood pressure, arthritis, and stomach or intestinal diseases, and blood thinners and drugs such as antidepressants or tranquilizers (Chrischilles et al.).

The older population is growing rapidly, bringing various challenges to the health care system. One of the major challenges is that of ensuring safe and effective medication use in older people. The unique needs and characteristics of this population must be taken into account by health care professionals involved in the care of older people in order to prevent drug-related problems.



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