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Press Release

Elderly at Risk for Dangerous Presciptions

Nearly one in 20 prescriptions given to the elderly during visits with physicians at hospital-affiliated outpatient departments involve a medication that experts agree should generally be avoided in the geriatric population, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy.

Because of age-related changes in the structure and function of various organs, certain drugs may cause serious, sometimes life-threatening, side effects in the elderly. Inappropriate prescriptions most often include the drugs diazepam, propoxyphene, dipyridamole, amitriptyline, and cholordiazepoxide, commonly known by the brand names Valium, Darvon, Persantine, Elavil, and Librium. 

According to researchers, the odds of receiving a prescription for a potentially inappropriate medication are greater when elderly patients receive care from a physician to whom they were referred, prescriptions for more than one medication, prescriptions for dipyridamole or an antispasmodic agent such as cyclobenzaprine, or Flexeril, which have little benefit in the elderly, or care at an outpatient department not in a metropolitan area. Information about the outpatient visits came from the 1997 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. 

ASHP is the 30,000-member national professional association that represents pharmacists who practice in hospitals, health maintenance organizations, long-term care facilities, home care, and other components of health care systems. ASHP believes that the mission of pharmacists is to help people make the best use of medications. Assisting pharmacists in fulfilling this mission is ASHP's primary objective. The Society has extensive publishing and educational programs designed to help members improve their delivery of pharmaceutical care, and it is the national accrediting organization for pharmacy residency and pharmacy technician training programs.