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Elderly put in danger from over-prescribing

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Doctors are over-prescribing anti-inflammatory medication for elderly men and not taking sufficient precautions, increasing the risk of harmful side effects for their patients.

A study involving 1700 men aged 70 years and older found that those prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as Celebrex were typically on them for around five years – a usage wildly at odds with guideline recommendations that they only be used on an occasional, as-needs basis.

Lead author of the Sydney University study, Dr Danijela Gnjidic, said the result was “alarming”.

“Australian and international guidelines suggest NSAIDS should be used for short-term treatment and be taken as needed,” Dr Gnjidic said. “This is clearly not what is happening in reality.”

The Faculty of Pharmacy researchers found that although NSAIDs were not widely used, where they were they were being taken in a way that put patients at risk.

Older people, in particularly, are at risk of developing serious complications from taking such medication, including developing stomach ulcers, suffering high blood pressure and an increased likelihood of heart failure.

In addition to over-prescribing, the study found that only 25 per cent of those using NSAIDS were prescribed a proton pump inhibitor to help manage or prevent side effects, despite recommendations that there use should be standard.

“The difference between the guideline recommendations for prescribing NSAIDS and what is happening in the real world is alarming,” Dr Gnjidic said, adding there was a need for doctors and patients to work together to ensure safe and appropriate prescribing of NSAIDS for older people.

The research was published in the journal PAIN.

Adrian Rollins