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Posted: May 20, 2008

Many Disabled Seniors Found to Use Risky or Ineffective Medicines

Government experts are trying to understand why they found that more than a quarter of all seniors with disabilities were using prescription drugs that were risky or not approved for their conditions, while far fewer elderly without disabilities reported using these risky drugs.

The findings derive from a report by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in its News and Numbers report.

AHRQ found that just over one in every four Americans age 65 or older with a disability said they used at least one prescription drug deemed inappropriate for people their age. Meanwhile, only about half as many (13%) elderly without disabilities used inappropriate drugs, according to the analysis of 2004 data.

Thirty-three medications are regarded as inappropriate for people 65 and older. These include some well-known medicines such as Xanax, Demerol, Darvon and Procardia -- that should be avoided as we age, either because they are ineffective, pose a high risk of side effects, or may be avoided in favor of a safer alternative.

AHRQ'S analysis of medication use among older people also found:

Use of these drugs was more common among people with complex disabilities (27%) than those with basic disabilities (23%). Complex disabilities limit a person's ability to work or socialize while basic disabilities limit a person's ability to walk, bathe or carry out other everyday activities.

• Older people with disabilities, regardless of their race or ethnicity, were at least twice as likely as older people without disabilities to have used an inappropriate prescription drug.

• Seniors with disabilities who never finished high school or stopped their education after high school were more likely to use potentially inappropriate drugs than those who went on to college.

This AHRQ News and Numbers summary is based on data from the 2007 National Healthcare Disparities Report, which examines shows disparities in Americans' access to and quality of health care by race, ethnicity, income, and education.

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