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Many Canadian seniors are being prescribed medications that could possibly be harmful to their health.

At least, those are the findings of a new UBC study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Researchers looked at drug prescription claims from 2013 for patients 65 and older from the National Prescription Drug Utilization Information system database. Then, they crossed that data with something called the Beers Criteria–a document put out by the American Geriatrics Society, which lists medicines that pose a greater risk to seniors.

What they found was that 37 per cent of older Canadians were being prescribed medications that were deemed inappropriate for their age group. As a result, the study estimates that Canadian provincial drug plans were charged $419 million for drugs that could potentially be harmful for the patients taking them. When you factor in hospital visits that stem from the use of these medications, the cost to our healthcare system runs closer to a whopping $2 billion.

“We’re wasting vast sums of money on drugs that we know pose more risks than benefits for patients over 65 years of age,” Steve Morgan, a professor at UBC and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “Canada urgently needs a national strategy to ensure that older patients receive only those medications that are appropriate for their health and for their age.”

Morgan says that patients and their families should have conversations with their healthcare providers about the kinds of medications they are taking, and whether or not they are appropriate.

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