Study Underestimates Problem
In an editorial accompanying the study, geriatric medicine specialist Knight Steel, MD, wrote that the Duke findings probably underestimate the extent of the problem of inappropriate drugs among the elderly "by a wide margin."
Steel concluded that the problem could be addressed through several relatively simple interventions, including prohibiting payment for inappropriate drugs by Medicare and making a computer program available to all pharmacists identifying the drugs in question.
Steel tells WebMD that the use of inappropriate drugs and the overuse of prescription drugs in general are major causes of death and disability among the elderly.
"Just an hour ago I was talking to an 80-year-old who was taking 17 drugs," he says. "Taking 10 or 12 medications is common, and that is too many. We have to change the way we do things so that we get the correct drugs to the right people in the right doses at the right time."