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Older patients on medley of drugs ‘at higher risk of adverse reactions’

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Older women are at higher risk than older men of experiencing adverse reactions to drugs prescribed by their family doctor, and older patients taking more than 10 medicines are at higher risk than those taking fewer, according to a study.

Overall, one in four older people experience adverse drug reactions (ADRs) to pills prescribed by their GP, the research published in the British Journal of General Practice suggests.

It has prompted calls for GPs to consider deprescribing ineffective medications and prioritise patients taking lots of drugs for a regular review of their prescriptions.

The medicines most commonly associated with ADRs included those used to treat high blood pressure and other cardiac conditions, strong painkillers such as tramadol, and antibiotics such as amoxicillin, according to the study.

The study monitored 592 patients aged 70 and older across 15 general practices in the Republic of Ireland over a six-year period. One in four experienced at least one ADR.

Patients prescribed 10 or more medicines had a threefold increased risk of experiencing a reaction, researchers said. Women were at least 50% more likely to have ADRs than men, the study found.

“ADRs can be difficult to identify in medically complex older adults as they often present as non-specific symptoms,” the researchers wrote in the British Journal of General Practice.

“GPs are well placed to detect the occurrence of ADRs from drugs prescribed in primary care as well as in other care settings. Deprescribing of ineffective medications and those no longer clinically indicated is one approach to reducing the risk of ADRs in older patients.”

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Source: The Guardian, 24 January 2023

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