Elderly patients are being discharged from hospital with potentially-lethal cocktails of drugs.
Pensioners are often prescribed up to nine different treatments which can cause severe side-effects when combined.
These include dizziness, heart problems and kidney damage – and in some cases may prove fatal.
Pensioners risk medical problems following their discharge from hospital after
Researchers from Brighton and Sussex Medical School and King’s College London found a third of pensioners suffered ‘medication harm’ as a result of the drugs they were given – but 52 per cent of the complaints suffered could be prevented.
The elderly are often prescribed statins, blood pressure pills, treatments to prevent bone thinning and iron supplements.
In the largest study of its kind, researchers monitored the progress of 1,280 patients in the eight weeks after they were sent home from hospital. A total of 37 per cent of patients suffered some form of medication harm of which 81 per cent were deemed to be serious. Four of the patients, who had an average age of 82, even died.
The researchers calculated that the cost of medication harms to the NHS was almost £400million a year, due to patients being readmitted back to hospital.
Dr Nikesh Parekh, clinical research fellow in geriatrics at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, criticised today’s ‘over-medicalised’ culture. He said: ‘There was a time when medicines were used symptomatically. But we’ve moved into an era of chronic use of medicines without strong evidence of benefit.
Dr Nikesh Parekh, pictured, of Brighton and Sussex Medical School said people are being ‘over medicated’ without strong evidence of benefit
‘The average patient on our cohort was on nine medicines. That’s significant.
‘We don’t know how these are all interacting with each other. But we do know that over an eight-week period following hospital discharge, this is causing one in three harm.’
The research, published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, also found that 11 per cent of incidents were caused by patients not taking the drugs as prescribed. One died from a stroke because they stopped taking the blood-thinning drug, warfarin.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: ‘Modern medicines bring huge benefits and are essential in helping people stay well.
‘However this report is also a shocking reminder that medication needs to be carefully managed, especially when someone is taking several different ones.’
The Department of Health and Social Care said it was accelerating the rollout of a system to monitor higher risk prescribing, and deploying clinical pharmacists to GP practices and care homes, to improve medicines safety.
NHS spending more on drugs despite crackdown
The NHS is spending more on drugs that aren’t meant to be routinely prescribed, despite a supposed crackdown.
Many of the ‘low priority’ medicines – such as painkillers and vitamins – have risen in price, Oxford University researchers found.
One thyroid treatment went up in price from £3.60 to £218.
The research, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, found that while the number of prescriptions went down, the overall bill was up.
The NHS spent £153.5 million on ‘low priority’ treatments in 2016/17, 3 per cent more than in the previous year.