Many drug prescriptions for old people are simply unnecessary

The easiest way for a doctor to get an old person out their office?

Easy: Give them a prescription. Or three. Or even 6 or 7. And sadly, sometimes more than 10.

So no wonder that no matter what group of drugs researchers look at, they invariably find that all patients are getting too much of them, but that’s especially for older people.

Latest example is a recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society in which researchers looked at nearly 70,000 patients, aged 65 years or older, being treated at a “large academic health system in 2018”, namely a pretty good place to be a patient in the US so one must assume these people are getting either standard or better-than-standard care.

And what the reseaserchers y were interested in was the number of prescriptions for proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), those drugs so commonly (over-) prescribed for the (over)diagnosis of gastric reflux.

And here’s the unsurprising result: about 12 % of the patients were prescribed a PPI, which I think might actually be a pretty low number for a a general office practice in the US.

However, here’s the thing: According to these experts’ analysis of the reasons given by the docs for the PPI prescriptions, “over one-third were potentially low-value”, which is just a very polite way of saying there was no good reason for why those people were put on a PPI.

Bottom line once again: Whether you’re young or old but especially as you get older because trust me here, you will be told much more often as you age that you need some drug for something, often for a few things, the very least you must ask is “How do you know I have what you say I have?”, “Why this drug?” and “What are my alternatives?”