Canada must deal with harmful drugs for seniors with national strategy: study

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VANCOUVER - A new study says Canada urgently needs a national strategy to ensure people over 65 are prescribed appropriate medications because the cost of dealing with harmful drugs has reached nearly $2 billion a year.

Prof. Steve Morgan of the University of British Columbia says physiological changes associated with aging alter the effects of many medications, meaning older adults shouldn't be taking them.

The study is published in CMAJ Open, an online open-access journal of the Canadian Medical Association, and includes prescription data for seniors from six provinces.

Morgan says federal Health Minister Jane Philpott's mandate letter includes taking action on the problem of inappropriate prescribing for older Canadians and he's hoping a strategy will soon be in the works.

He says other countries are dealing with the problem, including Australia, which began educating prescribers and the public 16 years ago about issues, such as the importance of weaning off some medications including sedatives.

Prof. Gloria Gutman, a founding director of the Gerontology Research Centre at Simon Fraser University, says some doctors wrongly prescribe anti-psychotic drugs because they wrongly assume seniors have dementia.

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