High prescription rate for Alberta seniors increases risks: CIHI report

Almost one in four Alberta seniors are taking 10 or more drugs and are at greater risk of hospitalization from adverse drug reactions, according to a new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

Canadian Institute for Health Information says almost 1 in 4 seniors in Alberta are on 10 or more drugs

With multiple prescriptions comes the risk of complications and adverse effects, according to a new report. (Spencer Platt/Getty)

Almost one in four Alberta seniors are taking 10 or more drugs and are at greater risk of hospitalization from adverse drug reactions, according to a new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information. 

A Calgary doctor says he's seen the effects firsthand.

"I see these folks everyday presenting to the urgent care centre with many, many drugs that they shouldn't be on," said family physician Anthony Train.

He's the Alberta lead for Choosing Wisely, an initiative to reduce unnecessary medical treatment.

According to Train, too many drugs can lead to everything from falls to confusion in seniors.

"We see all kinds of problems with our elderly folks who are on multiple, multiple drugs that have little benefit for them in many cases," he said. 

Far more likely to be hospitalized

According to the CIHI report, those seniors who are on 10 or more prescriptions are far more likely to be hospitalized with an adverse reaction than those who take fewer drugs. 

"Sometimes a drug that was prescribed six months, a year ago, or even in some cases a decade ago, may no longer be needed," said Jordan Hunt, who is with CIHI. 

"So it's good to go back and reassess those drugs over time."

Train says doctors should talk more about the potential harms prescription drugs can pose, and teach patients that medication doesn't always improve quality of life or help you live longer.

With files from Jennifer Lee