Many Older Americans Would Like to Take Fewer Meds, Poll Reveals

In HealthDay News
by Healthday

Older Americans think they take too many medicines, and a sizable percentage said they have cut back

By Physician’s Briefing Staff HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 25, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Americans older than 50 years are interested in cutting back on prescription medications, dovetailing with a movement toward “deprescribing,” according to the results of the latest University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging. The poll was administered online and by phone in January to more than 2,500 adults aged 50 to 80 years, then weighted to reflect the U.S. population.

About 67 percent said they would seek their doctor’s advice before dropping a pill. Yet more than one-third of older adults said they had quit taking a medication they had been using for more than a year without talking first to a doctor, pharmacist, or nurse practitioner.

About 82 percent of people between 50 and 80 years of age take at least one prescription medicine regularly, the poll showed. About 28 percent think they take too many medicines. More than half of respondents take three or more prescription medications. About 11 percent regularly take three or more over-the-counter medicines. Furthermore, approximately 38 percent take three or more vitamins, minerals, or supplements.

Reasons for deprescribing or reducing a medication include resolution of a temporary health condition; potential problems with other medicines; or the overall benefits and risks of taking it have changed.

About 80 percent of respondents said they would be open to stopping one or more prescriptions they have taken for more than a year if a health care provider said it was possible. About 26 percent had already done so during the past two years. About 38 percent of those taking five or more prescriptions had stopped taking a medication compared with 23 percent of those taking three to four prescriptions and 17 percent of those taking one or two.

The poll also revealed that people who had a health problem or disability that limits their usual activities and those in fair or poor physical or mental health were nearly twice as likely to say they had stopped taking a medication in the past two years compared with those in better health.

“While we found that over 90 percent of older adults who take at least one prescription medicine expect their provider to review their list of medicines at least annually, research has shown this is often not the case,” Sarah Vordenberg, Pharm.D, M.P.H., a clinical associate professor at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy who worked on the poll, said in a university news release. “This drives home the importance of comprehensive medication reviews, which can often be billed to insurance by clinics and pharmacies as a separate patient encounter.”

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