Electronic tool effective in reducing overmedication in seniors, study finds


A new study finds many of Canada's seniors ingest a worrying, and perhaps unnecessary, amount of medication.

The lead author says they found a Canadian-made electronic tool is effective in safely reducing the medication overload.

Emily McDonald, a researcher and internal medicine physician at the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, says taking multiple medications can be dangerous to people 65 and up, who are vulnerable to side effects.

The study was conducted with patients 65 and over who took five or more medications a day.

It found doctors could safely reduce the number of medications given to their patients by using MedSafer, an electronic tool that helps monitor the different medications and flag potentially inappropriate ones.

Currently, some 40 per cent of older adults take five or more medications per day.

In addition to the risk of side effects or complications, McDonald says some medications may not be appropriate for certain health problems, which can make seniors vulnerable to additional hospitalizations, memory problems, dizziness, and balance problems that lead to falls and fractures.

She says it's one of the most common causes of hospital visits.

While lists of potentially harmful medication combinations exist already, it can be complicated and time-consuming for doctors to research them, especially when several people are involved in a patient's care.

A desire to address the problem led McDonald and study co-author Todd Lee to create MedSafer.

It checks the different combinations of medications prescribed to a patient and offers a recommendation of whether any can be safely stopped or reduced.

Designed specifically for seniors, the tool can be used by doctors, pharmacists and nurse practitioners.