Plan to halve unnecessary medication use in older Australians

Multiple medication use in older people was often harmful and unnecessary, according to the author of a new strategic plan to reduce the impacts of polypharmacy.

The University of Sydney’s Professor Sarah Hilmer said 50% of older Australians were taking too many medicines that were harmful or unnecessary, contributing to the $1.2 billion national annual cost of medicine-related hospital admissions.

The national plan released this week aims to halve the use of unnecessary medications in older Australians, improving their long-term quality of life.

The timeframe for the drop in medication use was five years.

The report, Quality Use of Medicines to Optimise Ageing in Older Australians, said use of too many medicines had serious side effects, including falls, confusion, loss of independence, extra hospital admissions and deaths. These may be misattributed to ageing itself but, unlike ageing, may be reversible.

Published by the University of Sydney’s Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre, in collaboration with the Australian Deprescribing Network and NPS MedicineWise, the report made seven recommendations.

“This can only be achieved with a coordinated approach that integrates action by government, doctors, pharmacists and relevant stakeholders,” said Dr Hilmer, a professor of geriatric pharmacology.

“We need top down as well as bottom up strategies.”

NPS MedicineWise CEO Steve Morris said with two out of three Australians over 75 were taking five or more medicines, with approximately half of all older adults taking a medicine that was harmful or unnecessary.

“Not using medicines wisely has an impact on the individual but also a big impact on the health care system and society,” Mr Morris said.

“All parts of the health care system need to work together to help improve the balance of benefit versus risk to older people who are taking medicines.”

The report is available here.

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