The Choosing Wisely campaign is backing Kiwi ground-breaking research and calling for regular reviews of older people’s prescriptions to reduce the risk of overmedication.

The Council of Medical Colleges (CMC) – which coordinates the Choosing Wisely campaign – is encouraging older people to talk to their doctor about whether they could take fewer medicines.

The call comes following the release of new research finding older people taking high-risk medications are twice as likely to fall and break bones, with up to a third dying within a year of being injured. The University of Otago, Christchurch research measured the impact of taking multiple medicines on fractures in older people.

CMC chair Dr Derek Sherwood says it is important that health professionals review older people’s medicines regularly and that older patients ask for reviews to help ensure they are receiving the best treatment and can discuss side effects they may be experiencing.

Sherwood says some medicines are more likely to cause side effects in older people.

“Benzodiazepines like diazepam and antipsychotic medicines like clozapine or risperidone are two examples of this. Side effects include feeling dizzy when standing up, feeling sick, not thinking clearly and having blurred eye sight.

“These side effects can also make the person unsteady on their feet, increase the risk of falling, and can affect driving.

“It is important that the benefits of taking such medicines outweigh the risks.”

Dr Sherwood says stopping a medicine can seem daunting to a patient especially if they’ve been taking it for a long time.

“But for many older people, stopping a particular medicine may actually benefit their health. The more medicines you take, the more likely you are to experience side effects and interactions.

“Many older people successfully stop medicines without feeling worse. In fact, you may feel better and improve your quality of life – especially if your symptoms were being caused by your medicines.”

The Choosing Wisely campaign encourages patients and health professionals to discuss the risks and benefits of tests, treatments and procedures, and to avoid those that are unnecessary. It is run by the Council of Medical Colleges, with partners Consumer NZ and the Health Quality & Safety Commission.

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