TIME Disease

Elders’ Medications Often Cancel Each Other Out

In some instances can worse another disease

About 75% of older Americans suffer from multiple chronic diseases like heart disease and dementia, but 1 in 5 of them are taking a combination of drugs that interfering with or worsen one of their ailments.

New research published in the journal PLOS ONE looked at 5,815 community-living adults between 2007 and 2009, and found that 22.6% of older people are taking a medication that can make a coexisting illness worse. “Many physicians are aware of these concerns but there isn’t much information available on what to do about it,” study author David Lee, an assistant professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy said in a statement.

Some chronic diseases known to have competing therapies include diabetes, heart failure, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and osteoarthritis. The scientists say more research is needed to determine whether illnesses may need to be treated one at a time in some instances.

“More than 9 million older adults in the U.S. are being prescribed medications that may be causing them more harm than benefit,” said study co-author Jonathan Lorgunpai, a medical student at the Yale School of Medicine in a statement. “Not only is this potentially harmful for individual patients, it is also very wasteful for our health care system.”

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