Some older adults may benefit from stopping or cutting back on their medications, according to two studies published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The caveat? The older adults, and any family members who assist with their care, should be sure to work with healthcare professionals and not try to change medication regimens on their own.
Researchers point out that the risk of dizzy spells, confusion, falls and even death can increase in people in their 70s and older if their blood pressures and blood glucose levels are very low. So in recent years, experts have started to suggest that physicians ease up on how aggressively they treat such people for high blood pressure or diabetes.
In the new studies, researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School and the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System studied patient records and surveyed primary care providers. They found that 25% of almost 400,000 older adults who could have been eligible to ease up on their multiple medications actually had their dosages changed. Even those with the lowest readings, or the fewest years left to live, had only a slightly greater chance as other people of having their treatment “de-intensified.”
Many physician guidelines call on doctors to personalize treatment for older adults, according to the researchers, but surveyed providers said they worried that decreasing medications could harm a person, make the provider’s clinical “report cards” look worse or increase their legal liability.