More than one in four seniors took at least 10 medications in 2016

Over-medication is high in Canada among seniors: in 2016, about one in four Canadians over the age of 65 was prescribed at least 10 medications, according to a study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information ( CIHI) released Thursday.

“We see that seniors in Canada continue to take a lot of medications,” says Christina Lawand, Senior Researcher at CIHI. In 2016, nearly 1.6 million Canadians aged 65 and over were taking 10 drug classes. This figure has been stable since 2011, “despite awareness campaigns,” says Christina Lawand.

CIHI, however, notes progress for some types of drugs “that have been targeted by prevention campaigns because they have potentially harmful effects on the elderly,” adds the researcher. This is particularly the case for benzodiazepines, which help to sleep, and antipsychotics. “This is good news,” she says.

Rich-poor disparities
The rate of seniors taking 10 or more medications was 50% higher for low-income seniors than for older seniors. “Unfortunately, we know that in Canada, the poorer we are, the more we have health problems. This difference in drug use could be explained by the fact that low-income people have more chronic diseases and need to take more drugs, “says the researcher.

Those who took 10 or more medications per year were five times more likely to be hospitalized as a result of an adverse reaction.

Christina Lawand, Senior Researcher at CIHI
A smaller difference, however, is also observed between seniors living in rural areas and those living in urban areas.

Six provinces compile data to determine patients’ postal code (Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon). According to this data, “20.4% of seniors living in rural or remote areas used 10 or more different drug categories, compared with 16.8% in urban areas,” the report says.

Why 10 drugs?

This report was prepared with a group of experts who found it important to report 10 or more drugs because it represents a large volume of drugs over a period of one year, says Christina Lawand. The risk to health is also higher. “It is known that polypharmacy, taking five or more medications, brings more risk of interactions [between drugs] and adverse effects,” she says.

Manitoba does better than the Canadian average
Provinces are not equal when it comes to drug use. For example, while about 13% of seniors in British Columbia were prescribed 10 or more medications, this proportion was 37% in Newfoundland.

Manitoba has some pretty good results. Nineteen per cent of seniors in Manitoba consumed 10 or more medications, or about one in five, compared to “more than one in four on average across the country,” says Christina Lawand. For more news, visit newshub.in

The researcher puts forward some factors to explain such disparities between the provinces. “It can result from the health of the population, it can be the prescribing practices of doctors, and it can also come from differences in public insurance plans. In some provinces, they are more generous and it can have a certain effect, “she concludes.

Sarah Buscaino

Sarah Buscaino is a seasoned journalist with 10 years experience as a reporter and investigative journalist. While studying journalism in Toronto, Sarah got her break as an intern at CITY TV. As a contributor to Island Daily Tribune, Sara covers municipal and provincial politics.

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Sarah Buscaino

About the Author: Sarah Buscaino

Sarah Buscaino is a seasoned journalist with 10 years experience as a reporter and investigative journalist. While studying journalism in Toronto, Sarah got her break as an intern at CITY TV. As a contributor to Island Daily Tribune, Sara covers municipal and provincial politics.

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