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Elderly patients in Swiss care homes consume more drugs

Patients in care homes consumed on average 9.3 different drugs daily. Keystone

New statistics show that the average number of drugs administered daily to elderly patients in Swiss care homes is almost double that of outside. Researchers are worried about the amount, and the type, of some of the medicines.

This content was published on November 20, 2017 - 20:56
swissinfo.ch and agencies

The figures, based on data from health insurer Helsana and reported on Monday by the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, reveal that over nine different drugs are administered on average to residents of care/social homes in Switzerland.

Some 85.5% of this group swallow five or more different types of medicine per day, according to the research, which was led by doctors at the University Hospital Basel. Some patients, they said, undoubtedly consume considerably more.

Compared with people over the age of 65 still living at home, the figures are markedly high; this latter group were found to consume an average of 5.6 medicine types per day.

Various risks

The risks associated with dependency or polypharmacy are considerable, said the study. Hospitalization, as well as mortality, automatically rises, while the very symptoms provoked by polypharmacy are often themselves treated with more prescriptions, creating a vicious circle.

The researchers also noted concern about the type of medicines used in care homes, such as quetiapine: though strictly recommended for treating schizophrenia and bipolar troubles, it is often prescribed to ageing patients with sleep trouble or delirious spells.

Quetiapine is also designated as a potentially inappropriate drug for elderly patients by regulator Swissmedic, along with various others. However, the results showed that in 2016, 76% of care home residents were administered such a substance.

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