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A new study recently published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) warns of the dangers associated with the increase in the amount of psychiatric medication that doctors are prescribing to seniors. The study found that the spike in polypharmacy – prescribing multiple medications to a patient – was disturbing.

Polypharmacy Study Results

The research team conducting the study examined data provided by the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS). This is a survey of office-based physicians which is on an annual basis. The scope of the data the study looked at was from 2004 through 2013. The study also looked at data which concerned patients that were 65 years of age or older.

The number of polypharmacy incidents went from 1.5 million to 3.68 million during the ten-year period. The number of anti-depressants, painkillers, sleeping pills, and other psychotropic drugs prescribed to seniors has more than doubled in a decade. Although researchers pointed out in the report that patients are more comfortable and more open when it comes to discussing issues about their mental health with their doctor, they found that there was an alarming number of women and patients living in rural areas were doctors prescribed multiple psychotropics, in particular, painkillers.

Senior women accounted for 68 percent of the number of polypharmacy incidents in the study analysis. The most common symptoms that patients presented with for which doctors prescribed multiple medications were anxiety, depression, and insomnia. However, over the course of the ten-year study period, there was a marked increase in polypharmacy incidents for patients who presented with pain. Surprisingly, there was also an increase in the number of psychotropic polypharmacy incidents for patients who had no complaints of either mental health issues or pain.

And despite the multiple warnings and dangers that have been studied and written about, physicians continue to write out combinations of prescriptions for drugs such as Ambien, OxyContin, Prozac, and Valium. Not only can mixing some of these medications be dangerous, they can also contribute to confusion and dizziness in seniors. These side-effects can cause a number of different accidents – such as falls – which can have devastating consequences for an older adult.

Let a Virginia Malpractice Attorney Advocate for Your Family

Overprescribing medication can have serious – and fatal – consequences for patients. If you have a family member who has suffered harm due to a physician’s negligence, contact a Virginia medical malpractice attorney to find out what legal recourse your family may have.

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