Brown University

Skip to Navigation

21% of U.S. Elderly Take High-Risk Medicines

April 10, 2013
Perilous pills

Prescribing rates of high-risk medications for seniors on Medicare Advantage plans were highest in the South, lowest in New England. The map shows the percentage of seniors who received one or more high-risk medications. Credit: Danya Qato/Brown University

More than one in five seniors with Medicare Advantage plans received a prescription for a potentially harmful “high-risk medication” in 2009, according to an analysis by Brown University public health researchers. The study was led by Danya Qato, a pharmacist and doctoral candidate in health services research. The questionable prescriptions were significantly more common in the Southeast United States, as well as among women and people living in relatively poor areas.

The demographic trends in the analysis, based on Medicare data from more than 6 million patients, suggest that differences in the rates of prescription of about 110 medications deemed risky for the elderly cannot be explained merely by the individual circumstances of patients, said Qato.

Read more of David Orenstein's article on risky medications taken by the elderly.