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Is your doctor prescribing the right medications for you?

Elderly Fayetteville residents and their families may greatly depend upon nursing homes, assisted living facilities and medical professionals to provide the elderly with quality care when they can no longer take care of themselves.

Quality patient care not only includes monitoring one's health and making accurate diagnoses; adequate medical care must also include making sure the elderly are being prescribed medications that are appropriate and necessary for treating their specific medical needs. But according to a recently published study, about 20 percent of elderly patients are taking medications that are either not necessary or not appropriate for them.

Taking the wrong drug or the wrong dose of a drug can be extremely harmful. A medication error could cause permanent injuries or even a wrongful death. For these reasons, doctors must carefully consider whether an elderly patient will benefit from a medication or whether a patient has a higher risk of suffering negative side effects after taking a new drug.

The study, which was published last month, is a meta-analysis of previous studies that had collected data on prescription drug use in patients who were 65 and older. For the study researchers only analyzed data from patients who did not live in nursing homes or other assisted living facilities.

Researchers discovered that seniors who were prescribed a new medication had a 20 percent chance of being prescribed a drug that was not appropriate. Common mistakes that were made by physicians when prescribing drugs to seniors included: prescribing medications that carried a higher risk of side effects compared to other similar drugs on the market, prescribing medications that were not effective enough to treat serious health problems, and prescribing medications with the wrong dose.

To prevent these types of mistakes from happening as often as they do, patients should make sure their doctors are aware of other medications they may be taking on a regular basis before prescribing another medication. Patients should also make sure their doctors explain the possible side effects they could experience after starting a new drug.

Source: Scientific American, "1 in 5 Rx's for Seniors Is Inappropriate," Katherine Harmon, Aug. 22, 2012

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Is your doctor prescribing the right medications for you? | Britton Law, P.A.