Skip to content

    Health Care Reform:

    Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

    Study: Older Adults Have More Adverse Events From Common Drugs

    WebMD Health News

    Common Drugs Account for Many Side Effects

    March 23, 2005 -- When it comes to side effects from prescription drugs, commonly prescribed medications may prompt more complaints from older patients than potentially riskier ones.

    Most side effects reported by Medicare patients in a new study were linked to commonly prescribed medications. Those include drugs for heart problems, inflammation, and cholesterol.

    Side effects can be dangerous. Patients can help avoid those problems by telling all their doctors about any prescription or over-the-counter preparations they take. That includes vitamins and herbal products. Of course, patients should also let their doctors know about any problems --physical or mental -- that arise while taking medicine.

    'Good' or 'Bad' Drugs?

    "These results mean that trying to eliminate dangerous side-effects in patients is difficult," says Emory University researcher Kimberly Rask, MD, PhD, in a news release. Rask, who worked on the study, doesn't dismiss any of the drugs.

    "There isn't a simple distinction between 'bad' medicines that cause side effects and 'good' medicines that improve health," she says. "Instead, many important medicines that improve health can also have serious side effects."

    Common Drugs, Common Side Effects

    Rask and colleagues studied the rates of medication side effects in about 400 Medicare patients. All participants were at least 65 years old and lived in southeastern Pennsylvania.

    Roughly half of the group was taking medications generally considered to have a higher risk of side effects in the age group. The other participants were taking common prescription drugs viewed as less risky.

    In telephone surveys, nearly one out of four participants (24%) reported they'd had a side effect from their medication in the previous six months. A total of 134 side effects were reported.

    The researchers show that seniors taking potentially riskier medications had no higher rates of side effects compared to seniors taking commonly prescribed drugs.

    "The vast majority of adverse drug events were attributable to commonly prescribed medications," says the study.

    None of the episodes were fatal, but four patients required hospitalization.

    Here are most common side effects reported by participants, along with the number of cases:

    Most cases (79%) were reported to the patients' doctors and changes were made in prescriptions for most events (66%), according to the study.

    Today on WebMD

    stethoscope on person's chest
    Your Marketplace choices,
    How not to waste money on health care.
    man in cafe looking at computer
    Finding low-cost health insurance.
    doctor showing girl a stethoscope
    Get the facts on health insurance.
    Loading …
    URAC: Accredited Health Web Site TRUSTe online privacy certification HONcode Seal AdChoices