Older people encouraged to talk to their doctor about taking fewer medicines
12 September 2018
The Council of Medical Colleges (CMC) is encouraging older people to talk to their doctor about whether they could take
fewer medicines. The College coordinates the Choosing Wiselycampaign which encourages patients and health professionals to discuss the risks and benefits of tests, treatments and
procedures, and to avoid those that are unnecessary.
The call comes following the release of new research
finding older people taking high-risk medications are twice as likely to fall and break bones, with up to a third dying
within a year of being injured.
The research, from the University of Otago, based out of Christchurch, measured the impact of taking multiple medicines
on fractures in older people.
CMC chair Dr Derek Sherwood says it is important older people get their medicines reviewed regularly.
“This helps make sure you are receiving the best treatment. When a doctor or pharmacist reviews your medicines they will
check things like what medicines you are taking and why, how many different medicines you are taking and any side
effects you may be experiencing.”
He says some medicines are more likely to cause side effects in older people.
“Benzodiazepines like diazepam and antipsychotic medicines like clozapine or risperidone are two examples of this. Side
effects include feeling dizzy when standing up, feeling sick, not thinking clearly and having blurred eye sight.
“These side effects can also make the person unsteady on their feet, increase the risk of falling, and can affect
“It is important that the benefits of taking such medicines outweigh the risks – that’s why it’s so important to review
your medicines regularly with your doctor.”
Dr Sherwood says stopping a medicine can seem daunting, especially if you’ve been taking it for a long time.
“But for many older people, stopping a particular medicine may actually benefit their health. The more medicines you
take, the more likely you are to experience side effects and interactions.
“Many older people successfully stop medicines without feeling worse. In fact, you may feel better and improve your
quality of life – especially if your symptoms were being caused by your medicines.”
Choosing Wisely is run by the Council of Medical Colleges, with partners Consumer NZ and the Health Quality & Safety Commission. Its sponsors are Southern Cross Health Society, PHARMAC and Pacific Radiology. It has wide health
More isn’t always better when it comes to medical tests, treatments and procedures. Unnecessary interventions are
stressful, and potentially expose patients to harm, leading to more testing to investigate false positives.