Plan to cut harmful medication use

Older Australians at risk of side-effects from unnecessary medicines

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MORE HARM THAN GOOD: Taking harmful or unnecessary medicines can mimic ageing.

MORE HARM THAN GOOD: Taking harmful or unnecessary medicines can mimic ageing.


Half of seniors are at risk of side-effects or even death according to a new study.


HALF of older Australians are at risk of serious side-effects and even death by taking too many harmful or unnecessary medicines.

Two out of three over-75s take five or more medicines.

Side effects can include falls, confusion, loss of independence, extra hospital admissions and death; and can be mistakenly attributed to ageing, according to a report from the University of Sydney.

Report author Professor Sarah Hilmer has developed a plan to halve the use of unnecessary medicines within five years.

“First, polypharmacy contributes to the over $1 billion national annual cost of medicine related hospital admissions,” she said.

“Second, the over-prescribing of medicines probably adds hundreds of millions of dollars each year to annual medicine expenditure.”

The report Quality Use of Medicines to Optimise Ageing in Older Australians makes seven recommendations including providing incentives for doctors to optimise medication use and raising consumer awareness. 

“Not using medicines wisely has an impact on the individual but also a big impact on the health care system and society as a whole,” said NPS MedicineWise chief executive Steve Morris.

“All parts of the health care system need to work together to help improve the balance of benefit versus risk to older people who are taking medicines.”

Patients should consult their doctor before stopping any medication.

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