Quirks & Quarks

Over-medicated seniors are an 'unseen epidemic'

Many seniors are on drugs they don't need and it's harming their health.
Many seniors are taking more pharmaceuticals than are good for them. (Spencer Platt/Getty)

The statistics are staggering. Forty percent of those over 85 in Canada are taking at least 10 medications. Two-thirds of those over 65 are taking at least five medications. That's a lot of drugs, and while many modern pharmaceuticals are helpful, life improving and life extending, physicians are recognizing that when it comes to drugs and the elderly, there is such a thing as too much. There's increasing recognition that while drugs are helping the elderly, overprescribing leads to negative drug interactions, overdoses, and overmedication as people end up taking drugs well after the problem they were taking them for has been resolved. 

That's why Canadian physicians are at the forefront of a new trend in treating the elderly. It's called "deprescribing" and it's about carefully and intelligently reducing - sometimes even eliminating - drugs from the treatment regime of elderly people. 

Dr. Cara Tannenbaum, a Scientific Director with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Director of the Canadian Deprescribing Network, and her colleagues have been working to raise the profile of the overprescribing problem.