Frailty, drug reactions not linked: study

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New research challenges a commonly held belief among physicians that frailty in seniors is linked to adverse reactions to medications, geriatricians at the San Francisco VA Medical Center reported.

Lead investigator Michael Steinman, M.D., said that many doctors reasonably perceive that people who have difficulty with daily tasks, such as bathing, dressing and walking without assistance, are more susceptible to adverse medication reactions. But, after studying 377 patients ages 65 and over, the researchers found this not to be the case.

Steinman and his team identified that a bigger risk for an adverse reaction comes when the physician adds a new drug to an elderly patient's regimen. This has implications for nursing home nurses and caregivers, since nursing home residents typically are on several medications at once.

“This indicates to physicians that they should not necessarily let their concerns about adverse reactions overrule other considerations,” Steinman said. “We don't need to be as fearful as we think we do when prescribing for our older patients.”

This study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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