Over-reliance on medicines for older people is abuse

Use of medicines as a tool to manage elderly residents of care homes is a form of abuse, says the House of Commons Select Committee on Health. It adds that measures must be taken to ensure that older people have their medicines regularly reviewed in a bid to eliminate this practice.

The call for regular medicine reviews is one of the main recommendations to come from a report published by the committee earlier this week. The report details the different forms of abuse suffered by elderly people including sexual, financial and physical abuse, where it occurs and suggestions for how to tackle the problem. Over-use of medicines is classified as physical abuse.

“The frequency of review of medication and the administration of drugs by unqualified staff is of particular concern to us. We therefore recommend measures are taken to ensure compliance with the national service framework target that all people over 75 years of age should normally have their medicines reviewed at least annually, and those taking four or more medicines should have a review every six months,” the report states.

In preparing its report, the committee examined evidence from the National Care Standards Commission, which last month highlighted the wide variation in compliance with national standards for managing medicines within care homes (PJ, 27 March, p376 and p387 PDF (150K)). For residents of these homes the select committee suggests that medicines reviews should be conducted at least once every three months.

The Health Select Committee says it accepts that prescribing and administration of drugs is not, in itself, indicative of abuse but notes that between 1999 and 2002 there was a 6.2 per cent increase in community prescriptions of antipsychotic drugs, representing a rise of 129,000 prescriptions in four years.

The report is available here.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, April 2004;()::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2022.1.165465

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