Older people getting inappropriate meds

  • Niall Hunter, Editor

Seven out of 10 older people in nursing homes in Ireland are getting at least one inappropriately prescribed medicine, according to a new study.

A cross-border research team led by Dr Stephen Byrne of UCC, found that 630 older people in long-term care in Northern Ireland and the Cork area were receiving an average of 11 medicines each. Half of them were prescribed 8-14 daily medicines each.

The research, which was funded by the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI), found that in nursing homes in the Republic of Ireland, 73 per cent of residents were receiving at least one potentially inappropriate medicine.

In Northern Ireland, 67% of those in the sample were receiving a potentially inappropriate medicine. Overall, nearly one-fifth  of the residents were receiving three or more potentially inappropriate medicines.

Dr Byrne said that inappropriate prescribing is a global problem and international research had demonstrated this problem in all healthcare sectors.

“Potentially inappropriate prescribing can lead to both minor and serious adverse drug events for older people. One of the most common instances is the risk of falls and fractures, leading to extended hospitalisation.

 "Tomorrow is World Health Day and the administrations in Ireland, North and South, could make a valuable contribution by announcing decisive action to reduce potentially inappropriate prescribing," Dr Byrne said.

He added that this could include protocol-driven medication reviews to ensure that pharmacists, GPs, consultants and nurses work closely with one another and with older people and their relatives to ensure patients receive the medicines they need.

The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) said the research findings were a cause for concern.

The IPU called on health Minister James Reilly to implement proposals to introduce pharmacist-led medicine use reviews for patients who are using multiple medications. 

This would highlight problems in a patient’s medication regime and lead to safer and more cost effective medicine use, better outcomes for patients and fewer hospital admissions, the IPU said.


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