Study: Elderly patients misdiagnosed 8% of time

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Patients 65 years and older may have been prescribed inappropriate medications at 8% of doctor visits in 2000, which is in line with the 1995 rate, according to a study in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study examined 38 drugs prescribed during outpatient visits. Potentially often inappropriate prescriptions included propoxyphene, a painkiller; hydroxyzine, an antihistamine; diazepam, for antianxiety treatment; amitriptyline, an antidepressant; and oxybutynin, for urinary tract infections.

The likelihood that a doctor prescribed an inappropriate drug became higher when multiple medications were prescribed. Misdiagnosed drugs were twice as high for women as men and higher for patients under age 80.

Seniors made more than 200 million visits to the doctor in 2000; about 94% of those visits were to the doctor's office and 6% to hospital outpatient or emergency departments.