Health care workers administered inappropriate and potentially hazardous drugs to more than a quarter of seniors, according to a large new German study involving more than 800,000 elderly patients.
Researchers, writing in the German scientific journal the Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, tracked the health records of 447,592 men and 356,808 women aged 65 or over and found 28.3 percent had been prescribed at least one “potentially inappropriate medication” in 2007.
The research team, led by Ute Amann, found the potentially hazardous drugs that were most often prescribed were the antidepressant amitriptyline (brand name: Elavil), the heart drug acetyldigoxin and the anti-anxiety medications tetrazepam (Clinoxan) and oxazepam (Serax) in the year studied.
The study also found women patients were given more dangerous medications than men and nearly 9 percent of all patients received four or more prescriptions for inappropriate drugs during the study period.
Giving certain medical drug substances to seniors can increase the risk of undesired drug effects, and for this reason experts describe them as "potentially inappropriate medications," researchers noted.
“There is a need for further research, especially into the clinical relevance of [inappropriate prescriptions) in terms of the risk of complications of therapy in comparison to alternative therapies,” they wrote.