According to a study by Cambridge University, it was revealed that almost about half of the population in the age group of 65 takes at least five different drugs per day. This figure has risen from just 12 percent 20 years ago while the proportion of the population taking no pills at all dropped from around 20 percent in the late 1990s to just 7 percent today. Researchers have tracked more than 15,000 older people who took part in two long term health studies which began in the 1990s. Some of the people who took part in this particular long term study mentioned that they were on and average of up to 23 tablets every day.
The researchers expressed their concern at the rapidly increasing dependence on prescription and over the counter medicine which is technically known as polypharmacy. The studies reveal how polypharmacy can give rise to an increasing danger of interactions between different drugs and the risk of feebleness in older patients. It is feared that a number of patients are left on medications for a long time without regular or thorough reviews or checkups. The volunteers who had taken part in the study were asked to record their regular use of medication including drugs that are prescribed by doctors and those they have bought like the painkillers, vitamins and minerals.
The results revealed that the proportion of the population taking five or more different drugs each day jumped from 12 per cent to 47 per cent. On the other hand, the number of people taking no medication at all just halved. Pills for heart disease such as statins accounted for about nearly half of the medication that was taken. The researchers said that the increased use of drugs partly reflected better diagnosis and treatment of potentially deadly conditions. But at the same time, they also raised concerns that some of the patients may not need all the drugs, still they are on them and are potentially at an increased risk of death. Dr Carol Brayne who is one of the researchers said that we all know that polypharmacy is associated with a higher rate of mortality and that the evidence for combination therapies that has been applied on the older population does not seem to be a good one at all.