Growing risk of deadly drug interactions among the elderly

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Older people are at risk of suffering from drug interactionsDangers of an overmedicated society have been highlighted by a study which has found that middle-aged and elderly patients face an unprecedented risk of dangerous drug interactions.

Researchers from The University of Chicago found that among patients between 57 and 85 years of age, one in 25 people is at risk of harmful drug-drug interactions, while 91 percent take at least one prescription drug.

"In our study, men and women were equally likely to report a history of cardiovascular disease," said co-author Dr. Dima M. Qato of the University of Chicago.

The study, which was published in the December issue of the Journal of American Medical Association, drew attention to the fact that the elderly population is growing – so if measures are not taken to remedy the problem it is likely to get worse.

Around 50 percent of the drug-drug interactions identified involved potential bleeding problems. Most commonly, wafarin, a prescription anti-coagulant, was found to cause bleeding if combined with aspirin, which also interferes with clotting.

Other potentially deadly interactions included elevated potassium levels and muscle breakdown.

According to expert Dr. Clark Gillespie, although the FDA’s resources and funding have fallen behind, the fact that not all possible drug interactions are explored during clinical trials is due mainly to what he terms "a pressing medical and business environment."
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