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Unsteady pensioner? It’s not old age, it’s the drugs

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Older people who are taking five or more prescription drugs are 1.5 times more likely to be frail – which can increase the likelihood of falling or suffering disabilities – than someone taking fewer medications every day. People taking 10 or more drugs a day double their risk of a fall.

Taking five or more drugs a day is known as polypharmacy, and doctors don’t understand the interaction between the different chemical compounds, say researchers.

A research team from the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg reviewed the amount of prescription drugs a group of 3,058 older people in care homes were being given. Nearly 40 per cent were taking five or more drugs a day, and 9 per cent were taking more than 10 drugs.

In the three years of the study, 186 people became unsteady on their feet, and the risk was far higher in those taking five or more drugs every day.

(Source: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 2016; doi: 10.1111/jgs.14718)

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Article Topics: Geriatrics, Pharmacology
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