A new report published in The Journal of General Internal Medicine indicates that doctors in the U.S. are far too frequently prescribing drug that are potentially harmful to geriatric patients.
Our Boston nursing home negligence attorneys understand that the problem may be especially pronounced in nursing home facilities.
The study, conducted by medical doctors at Brown University's Alpert Medical School in Rhode Island, found that one out of every five senior citizens receiving Medicare received prescriptions for drug that had been singled out by doctors as important for older folks to avoid, precisely because of the high risk of severe adverse side affects.
Factors such as socioeconomic status, access to quality care and education seemed to play a role in whether a person might be vulnerable to this type of negligence.
Researchers referenced the National Committee for Quality Assurance's list of drugs for the elderly to avoid. It's a sizable compilation, but some of the more common drugs included are:
- Antianxiety medications like Equanil and Equagesic;
- Antihistamines, such as Ephedrine, Diphenhydramine and Hydroxyzine;
- Amphetamines, like Adderall, Dexedrine and Dosoxyn;
- Barbituates, such as Amytal, Mephobarbital and Phenobarbital;
- Benzodiazepines, such as Valium, Libriumand Limbitrol;
- Skeletal muscle relaxants, such as Soma, Paraflex and Norflex;
- Oral estrogen;
- Narcotics like Meperidine, Pentazocine and Propoxyphene;
- Vasodilators, such as Ergot mesyloid and Isoxsuprine.
A lot of these drugs are widely prescribed to the general population, and usually without any major issues. The problem is that specifically for these substances, negative side effects are known to be amplified for older patients.
For example, Valium is a common anti-anxiety drug, and many people take it and have no major issues. But in older folks, there are elements of it that can be tough for the body to metabolize. That means it will stay longer in their system. That long-lasting sedation has the potential to increase their risk for falls. It also has a high risk of addiction. Even in a controlled environment, that kind of physical stress is harder on the body of an elderly person.
Researchers looked at data from some 6 million Medicare patients across the country to reach the conclusion that these drugs are being over-prescribed to older people. Of those 6 million, about 1.3 million had been prescribed at least one of these risky drugs. A smaller amount, about 5 percent, had been prescribed more than one of these substances simultaneously.
The author of the study says it's not quite clear why this is being done at such high volumes. There may be exceptions for appropriate use in certain cases, but the increasing numbers in recent years - even when adjusted for a national demographic that is rapidly getting older - is a troubling indication that a lot of our elderly loved ones may be at serious risk of illness, injury or worse.
If you have been a victim of Boston nursing home negligence, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment -- 1-888-367-2900.
Elderly Patients Routinely Prescribed Risky Drugs, April 15, 2013, By Anahad O'connor, The New York Times
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