Prescription Drugs and the Elderly:

Many Still Receive Potentially Harmful Drugs Despite Recent Improvements

T-HEHS-96-114: Published: Mar 28, 1996. Publicly Released: Mar 28, 1996.

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GAO reviewed the inappropriate use of prescription drugs among the elderly. GAO noted that: (1) according to 1992 data, about 17.5 percent of the almost 30 million Medicare beneficiaries were prescribed drugs inappropriate for their age; (2) factors that contribute to the inappropriate use of drugs include poor coordination among patients, doctors, and pharmacists, and the absence of guidelines for prescribing drugs to the elderly; (3) the elderly are especially vulnerable to health risks from inappropriate uses of prescription drugs; (4) the misuse of prescription drugs increases health care costs; and (5) increased monitoring of prescription drug use, greater awareness among doctors and patients, and improved coordination of care, such as in managed care plans and pharmacy benefit management firms, may reduce costs and inappropriate drug use.

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