The real reason over 65s have more adverse reactions and side effects to drugs…



Polyphamy is a term used to describe the phenomenon of anyone taking more than 10 different medications all at the one time. One in six people over 65 has polypharmy and a new revelation from the pharmaceutical industry makes this very, very alarming.

The Daily Mail reports that Marion McMurdo, a professor of ageing and health and the University of Dundee, has admitted that the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t often test drugs and medications on the people they are designed for.

She told the Daily Mail that, “A typical cancer drug for instance, involves people in their 50s whose only problem was cancer, and who were taking just that drug. We then use the results to tell us the best way to treat much older patients, in their 80s, who don’t just have cancer but possibly up to eight other chronic conditions as well”.

Over 65s are the largest age group for adverse reactions and negative side effects from drugs and this indicates that it may not be the drugs themselves but the “cocktails” made up of mixing ingredients and chemicals. This places incredible pressure on GPs prescribing drugs to investigate each case intricately to be able to accurately inform patients of the associated risks.

The Daily Mail also reports they spoke to Dr Adam Skolnick, an assistance professor of medicine at New York University who strongly supported the prospect of moving forward. He told them, “We can’t go on testing drugs on 50-year-old white men, using the results to treat a 90-year-old woman, and assuming results are going to be the same”.

He went on to say that it is likely older people are essentially overdosing on drugs as a natural part of ageing is the the loss of body efficiency, this means that chemicals take longer to clear out of the system.

The research published by Marion McMurdo indicated that about a third of drug trials don’t even consider testing older people despite the fact that they make up a significant portion of the people who would ordinarily be taking the drug tested. An example of this was that the average age of people trialling treatments for high blood pressure is 63 meanwhile the average age of people suffering from high blood pressure needing medication is above 70.

One of the worst and perhaps most concerning parts of this study is that only 10% of antidepressant drug trials involve older people while over 65s are the age group most likely to suffer from depression. Basically what the pharmaceutical industry is doing makes no sense at all. There is no logic… And the big question remains, is it costing lives?

This comes to a huge debate and a weight up that only the individual can make. When someone is prescribed or recommend to start a new drug, they need to ask themselves, what are the potential side effects and risks from adding this into my medicinal mix, and is the potential worth it?

It is a daunting prospect, the idea that the advice we take from our doctors isn’t based on accurate facts and is instead based on generalised assumptions. And it is a horrible position for doctors to be in, liable for their actions when they don’t have access to reliable information on prescription drugs. But what would you rather do?

Would you rather take a cocktail of drugs for your different ailments and illnesses or would you rather stay on the bare minimum, put up with the niggles and have good faith in the mix you are taking? 

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