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Dangerous Medications

ATLANTA According to officials at the Center for Disease Control, dangerous medications were prescribed for seniors in about 8% of doctor visits or about 1 in every 12 times in year 2000. This study was previously conducted in 1995 and there has been no significant improvement on this issue since then.

"Hopefully this study will be the catalyst for many physicians, drug companies, and patients to watch this more carefully," said Diane Makuc who works as a statistician for the CDC.

At this time, it's hard to say why wrong drugs are prescribed and of course there are various reasons. In some cases, there is inadequate training for treating the elderly and medications that would otherwise be fine for younger patients may cause complications in seniors. 

Other times there can be a lack of communication between multiple doctors and multiple pharmacists. It is imperative that every senior have a single family doctor that helps to coordinate the medical information from specialists as well as their own practice.  Multiple doctors and multiple pharmacists are almost a guarantee.  Therefore, it is up to the patient and their family to make sure that there is one central source where all the information can be aggregated.  

According to this report, there is no indication that there is any special lack of attention to seniors. The prevalence for the high numbers probably has significantly to do with the large number of prescriptions that seniors take on average. An occasional medication taken by a younger person does not have the same potential for adverse reactions as the same medication does when taken in larger quantities and in combination with several or many other medications.

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 information.

Of particular danger to seniors are pain relievers, anti-depressants, sedatives, and heart medications. Those medications can cause cardio-vascular problems, vision difficulties, and even delirium.

Always talk to your doctor and be sure to let all of your doctors know about every prescription or over the counter medication that you are taking. Even supplements should be discussed with your physician before taking them and make sure that your drug and medication list is updated every time you have a doctor's appointment.

People often think that if over the counter medications and supplements don't count and don't need to be discussed. It is a fact however, that many such medications and supplements can interfere with the performance of a prescription medication or may be enhanced and therefore dangerous by combining with other medications.

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