Are Seniors Being Prescribed Dangerous Medications? New Study Raises Alarms

The older we get, the more prescription medications seem to accumulate on our daily list of things to take. But have you ever stopped to wonder if the elderly are being prescribed the right medications? Or if they are really necessary at all? Well, as it turns out, the medications our older population is consuming may be not only inappropriate, but ineffective and even potentially hazardous.

A recent study published in the journal PLoS One discovered that one in five prescriptions given to individuals over the age of 65 is improper for the condition it is being utilized to treat. Let’s dive deeper into this issue and explore the reasons behind it, the drugs commonly involved, and effective ways to combat this problem.

The reasons behind inappropriate prescriptions

The study analyzed data from 19 previously conducted pieces of research, ultimately labeling drugs as inappropriate if:

  • They presented a higher risk of adverse side effects compared to a similarly effective drug
  • They were insufficient in treating the condition
  • They were over- or mis-prescribed

The study found that, despite mounting attention to the quality of medication prescriptions for elderly patients in primary care settings, high rates of improper medication prescriptions still exist.

Commonly inappropriately prescribed drugs

The most frequently mis-prescribed drugs within the study included:

  • Drugs containing Propoxyphene, a pain reliever
  • Amitriptyline, an antidepressant
  • Doxazosin, a beta-blocker
  • Diphenhydramine, an antihistamine

Physicians often prescribe medications like Diphenhydramine to manage common conditions such as allergies, but the drug can potentially cause drowsiness and cognitive impairments in the elderly. Therefore, alternative treatments or lower doses should be considered in these cases.

Combating the problem

1. Education and awareness

One way to address this issue is by promoting awareness and improving education for healthcare professionals. By staying up-to-date on the latest research and best practices, doctors can make better-informed decisions when prescribing medications to their patients, particularly older demographics.

In addition, it is important for patients and caregivers to remain informed regarding the appropriateness and effectiveness of prescribed medications. By staying educated on the medications and their potential interactions, individuals can be proactive in questioning and discussing prescriptions with their healthcare providers.

2. Regular medication reviews

Another crucial step in addressing the issue of improper prescriptions is to promote regular medication reviews with your doctor. This allows both patients and healthcare providers to assess the necessity, appropriateness, and effectiveness of each medication. Any inappropriate prescriptions can be identified early, and adjustments or alternative treatments can be considered.

3. Clear communication between healthcare providers

In many cases, patients may see multiple doctors or specialists for various health issues. It’s vital for these healthcare providers to communicate effectively with each other to ensure they are all aware of the medications being prescribed by others on the medical team. This can help to minimize the risk of drug interactions and over-prescribing.

4. Advocate for yourself and loved ones

Finally, it’s essential for individuals and their loved ones to advocate for their health. If you or a loved one is prescribed a new medication, ensure you’re informed about the drug’s purpose, potential side effects, and proper usage. By taking an active role in your healthcare, you can improve your own safety and well-being.


In summary, the problem of inappropriate prescriptions among the elderly population is one that cannot be ignored. By increasing education and awareness, promoting regular medication reviews, encouraging clear lines of communication between healthcare providers, and being an advocate for ourselves and our loved ones, we can work together to ensure that the medications prescribed to the older population are both effective and appropriate for their individual needs.