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Alert on high-risk drugs in elderly

A third of elderly patients are prescribed potentially inappropriate medicines, most of which are 'high-risk' drugs, a new study reveals.

The findings raise particular concerns over use of benzodiazepines and came as a group of MPs demanded regulatory action on the drugs.

The proportion of elderly patients on drugs they should not be taking has remained unchanged since 1994 despite repeated campaigns to drive down benzodiazepine use, the researchers reported in Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety.

Study leader Professor Derek Cook, professor of epidemiology at St George's in London, said: 'The fact 30 per cent of patients were receiving a drug on the list is really quite high. It highlights benzodiazepines as an area where action could be taken.'

In 2003, 32.2 per cent of the 170,000 patients analysed received a drug classified as 'potentially inappropriate' and 20.5 per cent had one classified 'high risk' by the Beers criteria.

Professor Heather Ashton, professor of clinical psycho-pharmacology at the University of Newcastle, said: 'We did a study in Newcastle and there were nearly 200 patients in each practice on long-term benzos when they're only indicated for two to four years.'

MPs are setting up an all-

party action group on tranquilliser addiction.

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