Skip to main content

Half of Quebecers age 65 and over take at least one medication that may be inappropriate

Québec City, October 31, 2019–After studying the medical records of over 1.1 million Quebecers, researchers from Université Laval and the University of Limoges conclude that 48% of Quebecers age 65 and over take at least one potentially inappropriate medication. According to the authors of the study recently published in the journal Family Practice, inappropriate medication can have adverse effects on the health of older adults. The authors call for physicians, pharmacists, and patients to work together to promote the deprescribing of medications.

«A medication is considered potentially inappropriate when the risks of adverse side effects are greater than the potential benefits and there are other solutions to treat the patient,» explains co-author Caroline Sirois, a professor at Université Laval's Faculty of Medicine and a researcher at the CHU de Québec–Université Laval Research Centre.

To conduct the study, Professor Sirois and her co-authors used the Québec Integrated Chronic Disease Surveillance System developed by Institut national de santé publique du Québec. The database, which contains information on drugs prescribed to people with a chronic disease or at risk of developing one, accounts for 90% of Quebecers age 65 and over. The researchers compared the data in this database with the American Geriatrics Society's list of potentially inappropriate medications for older adults.

Their analyses revealed that 48% of older adults were prescribed at least one potentially inappropriate medication during the year covered by the study. The most prevalent medications on the list are benzodiazepines (26%), which are prescribed for anxiety and insomnia, proton-pump inhibitors (21%), which are prescribed for gastric acidity, and certain antipsychotics (6%) and antidepressants (5%).

According to Professor Sirois, who also holds the Research Chair on Aging at Université Laval, several factors explain this situation: «It's easier and faster for patients and physicians to turn to these drugs than to opt for solutions that require time, effort, and resources. Once you start prescribing them, it's hard to stop and you stop questioning their usefulness and harmful effects.»

«Efforts have been made to raise awareness among health professionals and promote the deprescribing of these drugs,» Professor Sirois continues. «Efforts must now be directed at the people who use these drugs. They need to understand the harmful effects. Doctors, pharmacists, and patients are all key players in the deprescribing of potentially inappropriate medications,» she concludes.

The co-authors of the study are Barbara Roux, Caroline Sirois, Marc Simard, Marie-Eve Gagnon, and Marie-Laure Laroche.

Source and information:
Jean-François Huppé
Media Relations
Université Laval