New research by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) shows that nearly half of over 65s are on a drugs “cocktail” of more than five medicines at any one time.
The survey of 457 people also found that sixty per cent believed they had suffered side effects from their medication. The RPSGB is concerned that medicines are not being taken correctly – one in five admitted that they did not take the drugs as prescribed – and is urging people to visit a pharmacist to get their drugs regimen reviewed.
The risk of adverse reactions to drugs is likely to be higher in people over 65. The combination of older bodies less able to cope with drugs and their side effects, the chance that medicine might be taken incorrectly and the increased likelihood that older people have multiple conditions treated by different specialists can all contribute to a bad reaction to treatment. The BBC reports today that 17% of hospital admissions are down to adverse drug reactions, and according to the RPSGB, three quarters are “predictable and preventable”.
There is a lack of research into how a combination of different drugs can affect patients and people are often taking one medicine to counteract the side effects of another. With a more integrated approach to care, which takes into account not just the physical manifestation of illness but the mental and social factors that contribute to disease, it is possible to reduce this reliance on drugs.
More people are living longer, but more people will suffer with chronic conditions: in England, life expectancy in men over the last two decades has increased by around five years, but healthy life expectancy by less than three. The demands made on the health service by older people with chronic disease will be increasingly significant.