Time to increase your dose of overprescribing education

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Emily Mongan
Emily Mongan

Healthcare professionals know overprescribing medications is an issue among senior patients.

Research has found nearly half of long-term care residents with dementia are prescribed medications with “questionable” benefits and unnecessary risks. The problem is even riskier for elderly women, who are more likely to be overprescribed medications that could be “potentially inappropriate” than their male counterparts.

And it's not just teams of reachers combing through healthcare data who understand what's at stake when it comes to overprescribing — the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is targeting the problem in the upcoming second phase of its mega-rule for long-term care providers.

But what about the people actually taking the drugs? Turns out they recognize overprescribing is an issue as well, according to new findings from Canadian researchers.

A team from the Université de Montréal called up nearly 3,000 seniors to gauge how aware they were about appropriate drug prescribing, and how they engaged with their providers on the topic.

The findings, published Friday in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, show that the surveyed seniors are no slouches when it comes to understanding polypharmacy and overprescribing.

Sixty-five percent reported that they understand that some medications can be harmful to people in their age group; nearly half have conducted research of their own into possible harmful effects or contraindications. Sixty percent of the seniors told researchers they believed appropriate prescribing should be a top priority for government health officials.

When it came to deprescribing, just 7% of those surveyed said they had heard the word before, although 41% had asked their doctors about stopping certain medications. Overall, the study found that older patients who actively sought out information on the possible risks of overprescribing were four times more likely to talk about deprescribing with their doctors.

While the study didn't survey residents in nursing homes, there's value for healthcare providers in the results, researchers noted. After all, there's a good chance these community-dwelling seniors will eventually require long-term care. Understanding what incoming residents know — or don't know — about deprescribing may help providers tailor their medication plans and stay on top of the upcoming federal requirements.

“Very few older adults are familiar with the term ‘deprescribing,'” the study's authors wrote. “Healthcare providers have an important role to play in empowering older adults with information about medication harms in order to trigger safer medication management."

Sounds like talking with residents about overprescribing could be just what the doctor ordered.

Follow Staff Writer Emily Mongan @emmongan.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.