'America's Other Drug Problem': Copious Prescriptions For Hospitalized Elderly

Kaiser Health News, August 30, 2016

Copious Prescriptions For Hospitalized Elderly

The polypharmacy problem "is huge," says the director of the inpatient geriatric unit at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica.

This article first appeared August 30, 2016 on Kaiser Health News

By Anna Gorman | Photos by Heidi de Marco

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Dominick Bailey sat at his computer, scrutinizing the medication lists of patients in the geriatric unit.

A doctor had prescribed blood pressure medication for a 99-year-old woman at a dose that could cause her to faint or fall. An 84-year-old woman hospitalized for knee surgery was taking several drugs that were not meant for older patients because of their severe potential side effects.

And then there was 74-year-old Lola Cal. She had a long history of health problems, including high blood pressure and respiratory disease. She was in the hospital with pneumonia and had difficulty breathing. Her medical records showed she was on 36 medications.

"This is actually a little bit alarming," Bailey said.

He was concerned about the sheer number of drugs, but even more worried that several of them — including ones to treat insomnia and pain — could suppress Cal's breathing.

Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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