Medicines and the elderly: the risks of overmedication

Too many drugs added together can be a danger or a risk factor for our health, especially in the elderly.


How to prevent drugs from becoming bad for the health of the elderly? By mobilizing hospital experts around long prescriptions accumulated over the years. This is happening in Hauts-de-France where Géraldine Zamansky, journalist for the Health magazine on France 5, went.

It seems hard to believe, but the pillboxes of our grandparents can sometimes put them in danger?

Geraldine Zamansky: Exactly. This even leads to hospitalizations, following a fall or a moment of sudden confusion. Before accusing aging with fatalism, we must examine the contents of this famous pill box, or medicine drawer. Because the culprit or culprits may be there. Sometimes because of their cohabitation elsewhere.

A problem may thus arise after adding a new treatment, which will help to think about it. But it often happens that the disorder sets in more discreetly, until the accident. Especially when prescriptions from several specialists add up, for example.

The general practitioner cannot always identify possible sources of danger?

It is sometimes difficult to identify. And then, even if he does, and calls the cardiologist for example, he may not want to change his prescription! So specialists, geriatricians and pharmacists from the University Hospitals of Lille and Amiens decided to track down these drug risks in the elderly who arrive in their services.

Their expertise makes it possible, for example, to unmask an old treatment introduced years earlier, the dosage of which must be changed. At 80 or 90, the body no longer reacts in the same way. And the advantage is that the changes can be tested right away during hospitalization.

But, you mentioned it for cardiologists: will the patients' usual doctors accept this questioning? This is not obvious ?

You have put your finger on one of the major obstacles to these modifications. Patients often come back a few weeks later, they have fallen again, for example, because the old prescriptions have been taken over. That's why these teams suggest a meeting with the general practitioner and the pharmacist in town.

The adaptations are deciphered. A treating doctor explained to me that this dialogue changed everything. He understood how the team had been able to reduce his patient's hypertension treatments by following her continuously for several days, when he could only see her for a moment during her home visit.

So he can reassure her if she is worried about having fewer tablets every day. And between two consultations, when renewing the prescription, his pharmacist colleague, well informed, will also have the means to answer all the questions!

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