By Sue Jones and Mel Storey in The Conversation.
More than 50% of care home residents are being prescribed medicines that they do not need, or which do not properly address their health problems. Antipsychotics, for example, are often overused to treat the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia.
But this problem is not easy to remedy. The overuse of medicines for older people is an issue of multiple layers. Some may have been taking the same medicines at the same doses for many years, even when the underlying problem has resolved. There is a reluctance to stop prescribing based, in part, on the potential risks of medication withdrawal, as well as the resources needed to manage any symptoms that re-emerge (the British National Formulary recommends monitoring patients for two years after discontinuation of medication).
This is not just a matter of drugs being taken unnecessarily, a big problem associated with the prescribing and taking of inappropriate medication is adverse drug reactions. These medicine-related side effects account for 5-8% of unplanned UK hospital admissions – most of which are preventable. These also cost the NHS an estimated £1-2.5 billion every year. It is a situation that has persisted for over a decade.
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