21% of U.S. elderly take high-risk medicines

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

A study of more than 6 million seniors in Medicare Advantage plans in 2009 found that 21 percent received a prescription for at least one potentially harmful “high-risk medication.” Nearly 5 percent received at least two. Questionable prescriptions are more common in the South and among people who live in poor areas.