The number of older Americans at risk of potentially life-threatening drug interactions almost doubled between 2005 and 2011, according to a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“One in six older adults now regularly use potentially deadly combinations of prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements, a two-fold increase over a five year period,” says the release.
More than half the potentially deadly interactions involved a non-prescription medication or dietary supplement such as a vitamin. The study found that older adults have increased their use of vitamins and supplements, despite limited evidence of their clinical benefit.
The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, examined changes in medication use in more than 2,000 adults aged 62 to 85 between 2005 and 2011.
The study found that older adults have grown more fond of non-prescription medications and supplements: 63.7 percent of older adults used them in 2011, up from 51.8 percent in 2005. Older adults using at least five prescription medications increased to 35.8 percent from 30.6 percent in the same time period.
The most common life-threatening interaction identified by the study was cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins), drugs used to prevent blood clots (anti-platelet drugs) and omega-3 fish oil supplements.
“Many older patients seeking to improve their cardiovascular health are also regularly using interacting drug combinations that may worsen cardiovascular risk,” one of the researchers said in a news release.