The elderly are the biggest 'market' for pharmaceuticals, and are almost exclusively responsible for drug company profits - and yet in many cases they are given the drugs when they are fit and well, an expert has said this week.
Doctors are routinely handing out prescription drugs - for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and the like - just because the patient is old, says Michael Oliver, an emeritus professor of cardiology at Edinburgh University.
This 'tick box' medicine, as he calls it, means that the elderly are being unnecessarily exposed to side effects that can be debilitating. "Nowadays few elderly people are allowed to enjoy being healthy," says Prof Oliver in a comment piece on the British Medical Journal website.
In response, several doctors have said that it is not their fault, but that of bureaucrats and politicians whose best practice guidelines insist on a certain level of intervention, whether or not it is required.
(Source: British Medical Journal Online, http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/extract/338/mar03_2/b873).