Health & Diet

Older Canadians Are Concerned About Their Meds

By Lola Augustine Brown

That older people take a lot of prescription drugs is perhaps not surprising. That this may not be good for them may not have occurred to you—but a lot of Canadian seniors are thinking about it. Not only are they aware of the potential problem of over-prescribing, but 41% have raised the subject with their doctors, according to new study results from Université de Montréal (UdeM) published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The figures on prescription drug use among Canadian seniors are shocking. Two-thirds take more than five different prescription medications every day; 20% of Canadians over the age of 80 take more than 10 a day.

The UdeM study surveyed 2,665 Canadians aged 65 plus and found that 60% of them are concerned enough to feel that appropriate prescribing should be a priority for the federal government.

The survey was the first to ask seniors specifically—as opposed to clinicians—about overprescribing. The goal was to find out whether ordinary people are aware of the concept of deprescribing—a growing movement to reduce or stop medications that are of no benefit to patients and that may in fact be doing them harm. Only 7% of those surveyed had heard of the term, but 65% said that they knew some medications can be harmful to seniors.

You can find out more about deprescribing at deprescribing.org, a website launched by the Canadian Deprescribing Network (CaDeN). Funded primarily by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research grant, CaDeN seeks to reduce the prescription and use of inappropriate medicines, aiming for a 50% cut by 2020. Members include health-care professionals and academics, as well as patient advocates.

Because stopping a medication can have undesirable side effects, your first step if you’re concerned about the number or kind of drugs you’re taking is to discuss your concerns with your physician.

Photo: iStock/Cybernesco.