MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Older people are more like to have more than one chronic condition (multi-morbidity), and as such as are more likely to be prescribed several medications (poly pharmacy) to treat those conditions. At the point of hospital discharge, older people are given different / new medications in addition to their old ones, and this puts them at higher risk of harm related to medicines. Our study led by Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) and King’s College London involved five hospitals and 1,280 patients (average age 82 years) in South England. Senior pharmacists interviewed patients and carers, reviewed GP records and analysed hospital readmission to determine medication-related harm.
The study found that more than one in three patients (37%) experienced harm from their medicines within two months of hospital discharge, and that this was potentially preventable in half of the cases. Medication-related harm was most commonly found to occur from the toxicity of the medicine itself and in a quarter of cases from poor adherence. The medicines found to pose the highest risk were opiates, antibiotics and benzodiazepines. Patients suffered a range of side effects including serious kidney injury, psychological disturbance, irregular heart rhythms, confusion, dizziness, falls, diarrhoea, constipation and bleeding.