Expert advice

Medicines management: How can we prevent older people from taking too many medicines?

Extending consultation times could enable practitioners to explore medication usage in more depth, says Matt Griffiths. 
Matt Griffiths

Question: How can we prevent older people in the community from taking too many medicines inappropriately?

A recent study from researchers at Ghent University in Belgium, involving 503 community-based adults aged 80 and over, found that 58% were taking five or more long-term medications daily, but few were taking them appropriately; underuse occurred in 67% of those studied and misuse occurred in 56%, with some overlap.

These findings echo previous studies carried out in the UK, which have shown that the average 80-year-old takes eight different kinds of medicines daily, and that medicines used for long-term conditions are only taken correctly by about 50% of patients.

So why is this happening? All medicines have side effects and, because older people often have reduced

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