Older women more likely to be prescribed wrong drugs than men, new study finds

Older women are up to 23 per cent more likely than men to be prescribed inappropriate drugs

The researchers analysed figures to find out which medical and non-medical factors influence patients’ risk of receiving prescription drugs on the American Geriatrics Society’s list of drugs that should be avoided for older patients.

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There is increased awareness in doctors and pharmacists of the harms associated with prescribing certain medications

They found the biggest non-medical risk factor was a person’s sex.

Despite increased awareness among doctors and pharmacists of the harms associated with prescribing certain medications to older patients, the study found older people in British Columbia continue to routinely receive inappropriate prescriptions.

The study also found that women were much more likely to receive medications in general than men.

The study looked at 660,679 British Columbian residents aged 65 and older in 2013.

Women made up just over half (54 per cent) and were more likely to be over age 85, reside in a long-term care facility, fill prescriptions for five or more different types of drugs, and have low income.

The study was conducted in the Canadian province of British Columbia

Men in the study had relatively poor health status, which was associated with higher crude prevalence of potentially inappropriate prescriptions.

The study found a larger share of women (31 per cent) than men (26 per cent) filled one or more potentially inappropriate prescriptions.

Dr Cara Tannenbaum, scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Gender and Health, said: “Being a woman is double jeopardy when it comes to taking medications.

Women metabolise drugs differently than men. Gender roles and social circumstances also place them at risk.

“However, I expect that by empowering women with knowledge about the harms of sleeping pills and other medications, we can help drive decisions to try switching to safer therapies.”

Experts say women metabolise drugs differently than men

Prof Morgan said the findings of the study – including sex differences in the effects of income, ethnicity, and marriage – suggest that the elevated risks that women face are a result of complex issues intersecting between social, gender and authority relationships.

He added: “For men, being married or in a high income bracket reduced the risk of receiving inappropriate prescriptions.
“These factors had no significant effect for women. On the other hand, being Chinese or South Asian significantly lowered women‘s risk of receiving an inappropriate prescription, but did not affect men‘s risks.”

Researchers found that the sex differences in older adults’ risk of receiving a potentially inappropriate prescription are significantly influenced by social dynamics – including differences in patients’ care seeking and care-giving behaviours – as well as differences in the relationships and communications between patients and providers.

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