Filed at 8:00 a.m. ET
ATLANTA (AP) -- Dangerous drugs were prescribed to elderly
Americans in about one out of every 12 visits to the doctor in 2000,
federal officials said.
The findings show no improvement since the last study of the
problem in 1995, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
``This is a sizable problem -- it hasn't been getting better,''
said Diane Makuc, a CDC statistician. ``Hopefully these results will
encourage health care plans, drug companies, physicians and patients
to all look at this issue more carefully.''
Researchers do not know why the wrong drugs are being given.
Among the reasons cited in past federal studies are poor medical
training for treating seniors, lack of coordination between doctors
and pharmacists and failure to give patients proper drug
The problem is particularly common among elderly patients because
they tend to have more prescriptions and are more apt to develop
adverse reactions, according to a 1995 General Accounting Office
The new study, released Monday in the Archives of Internal
Medicine, indicated drugs particularly dangerous to senior citizens
were prescribed to them about 8 percent of the time -- an estimated
16.7 million doctor visits. The numbers were gleaned from patient
data from doctors and hospital outpatient departments from 1995 to
Included on the danger list are some pain relievers, sedatives
and antidepressants. Those medicines can cause delirium, falls,
blurry vision and over-sedation in the elderly, according to a panel
of geriatric medicine and pharmacology experts.
Seniors were more likely to be given an inappropriate drug if a
doctor prescribed more than one medication, the CDC said. Women also
were twice as likely to be given a dangerous drug than men.
Efforts have been made to prevent doctors from prescribing
seniors the wrong drugs. The federal Centers for Medicare and
Medicaid Services provide drug guidelines for treating nursing home
patients, Makuc said.
``A number of things have happened to help inform patients,'' she
said, ``but clearly not enough is being done.''
On the Net:
CDC info: www.cdc.gov