Nearly one in three women in British Columbia over the age of 65 were prescribed inappropriate or even dangerous medications in 2013, according to a new study at the University of British Columbia (UBC). One in four men of the same age received similar prescriptions.
“The effect of a patient’s sex on the risk of inappropriate prescribing is of tremendous clinical and social concern,” said lead researcher Professor Steve Morgan at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health.
For the study, the researchers looked at population-based healthcare data to find out which medical and non-medical factors influence patients’ risk of receiving prescription drugs on the American Geriatrics Society’s list of drugs that should be avoided for older patients. The biggest non-medical risk factor was the patient’s gender — namely, being a woman.
The findings show that, even when the data was adjusted for all other risk factors, women were as much as 23 percent more likely than men to be prescribed inappropriate drugs.
Even though there has been increased awareness among doctors and pharmacists of the harms associated with prescribing certain medications to older patients, the findings show that older British Columbians continue to routinely receive inappropriate prescriptions. The study also found that women were much more likely to receive medications in general than men.
“Being a woman is double jeopardy when it comes to taking medications,” said Dr. Cara Tannenbaum, scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Gender and Health.
“Women metabolize drugs differently than men. Gender roles and social circumstances also place them at risk. However, I expect that by empowering women with knowledge about the harms of sleeping pills and other medications, we can help drive decisions to try switching to safer therapies.”
The study findings — including sex differences in the effects of income, ethnicity, and marriage — suggest that the elevated risks that women face are a result of complex issues intersecting between social, gender, and authority relationships.
“For men, being married or in a high income bracket reduced the risk of receiving inappropriate prescriptions. These factors had no significant effect for women. On the other hand, being Chinese or South Asian significantly lowered women’s risk of receiving an inappropriate prescription, but did not affect men’s risks,” said Morgan.
Researchers concluded that the sex differences in older adults’ risk of receiving a potentially inappropriate prescription are significantly influenced by social dynamics, including differences in patients’ care seeking and care-giving behaviors, as well as differences in the relationships and communications between patients and providers.
Source: University of British Columbia