Elderly people are routinely given drugs to help reduce blood sugar levels or control their blood pressure, but the medications could be doing more harm than good. They increase the risk of dizzy spells, confusion, falls and even death.
Doctors should consider stopping the drugs or, at the very least, reduce the dose, say researchers. But only one in four of 400,000 older patients surveyed were taking a lower dose, even though all of them could have had their prescription reduced.
And in a separate survey, only half of 600 doctors said they would reduce the prescription of a hypothetical 77-year-old patient with diabetes who already had dangerously low levels of blood sugar and was in danger of a low-sugar crisis, or hypoglycaemia. Some of the doctors feared that lowering the dose could harm the patient even when the drug was already doing so and some worried about their legal liability.
Researchers from the University of Michigan, who carried out the survey, said that doctors are still ignoring guidelines to reduce drug dosages in patients who are aged 70 or older.
(Source: JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015; doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.5110)