Study shows decrease in seniors taking potentially harmful drugs between 2000 and 2006

    New CIHI analysis shows that more than a quarter of seniors continue
    using these drugs

    OTTAWA, Sept. 13 /CNW Telbec/ - The proportion of seniors taking
potentially harmful drugs decreased over the last six years, from more than
one in three seniors (34%) on prescribed medication in 2000-2001 to just over
one in four seniors (27%) in 2005-2006. A new study released today by the
Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), Drug Claims by Seniors: An
Analysis Focusing on Potentially Inappropriate Use of Medications, 2000 to
2006, examines public drug program claims in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba
and New Brunswick. The study focuses on medications on the Beers list-an
internationally recognized list of medications identified as "potentially
inappropriate" for seniors because of an elevated risk of adverse effects.
First developed in 1991 by U.S. gerontologist Dr. Mark H. Beers, the list was
developed using criteria such as appropriate use of medication, effectiveness,
risk of adverse events and the availability of safer alternatives.
    "Prescription drug therapy is a very important component of health care
delivery for the elderly in this country. As the Canadian population ages, a
better understanding of any potentially inappropriate use of these drugs is
essential," says Francine Anne Roy, Director of Health Resources Information
at CIHI.

    Top five Beers list drugs claimed are similar across the four provincial
    drug programs

    The study noted a decline in the chronic use of drugs from the Beers list
in all four provinces. Chronic use of medications on the Beers list is
described as a minimum of three prescriptions and 100 solid dosage units in a
given year. In 2000-2001, chronic use ranged from 19.5% of seniors with drug
claims in Manitoba to 27.5% in New Brunswick. This range was from 12.9% in
Alberta to 18.8% in New Brunswick in 2005-2006.(*)
    "Our analysis shows a decline in the overall use of drugs on the Beers
list. This is not surprising considering increased awareness around the safety
and benefits of some of these medications, including oral conjugated
estrogens, used for hormone replacement therapy," says Michael Hunt, Manager
of Pharmaceuticals at CIHI. "On the other hand, the use of other drugs on the
list appears to be increasing. The chronic use of amitriptyline, an
antidepressant that carries high potential health risks, has increased over
five years, making it the fastest-growing drug on the Beers list in terms of
usage in all four provinces."
    In 2005-2006, the top five Beers list drugs most prescribed and claimed,
by number of chronic users, were similar between the four provincial drug
programs. Overall, the top five were:

    - Oral conjugated estrogens - hormone replacement
    - Amitriptyline - an antidepressant
    - Digoxin - a treatment for heart conditions
    - Oxybutynin - a treatment for incontinence
    - Temazepam - a treatment for sleep disorders

    A sub-category of Beers drugs labelled "high risk," identified originally
by Dr. Beers and subsequently by a United States consensus panel of experts in
their 2003 update of the Beers list, are of particular concern due to the
potential for "adverse outcomes of high severity." Between 2000-2001 and
2005-2006, chronic use of Beers drugs considered to be high risk decreased in
all four provinces. In 2005-2006, the use varied from 8.2% of seniors with
drug claims in Alberta to 12.0% in New Brunswick. Among the number of
potential effects on seniors using these medications are unwanted changes in
blood pressure, confusion, sedation and dizziness.
    The chronic use of more than one Beers drug occurred, on average, in less
than 2% of all seniors using medications in the four provinces. CIHI's
analysis found chronic Beers list medication use increased with age and was
highest among women and seniors aged 85 and older.

    (*) The proportion of seniors who had drug claims accepted by the public
        drug programs in the four provinces varied from 59% in New Brunswick
        to more than 90% in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

    About CIHI

    The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) collects and analyzes
information on health and health care in Canada and makes it publicly
available. Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments created
CIHI as a not-for-profit, independent organization dedicated to forging a
common approach to Canadian health information. CIHI's goal: to provide
timely, accurate and comparable information. CIHI's data and reports inform
health policies, support the effective delivery of health services and raise
awareness among Canadians of the factors that contribute to good health.

    The report and the following figures and tables are available from CIHI's
website at

    Figure 1. Age-Sex Standardized Rates of Beers Drug Use Among Seniors on
              Public Drug Programs in Select Provinces, 2000-2001 to
              2005-2006 (Figure 2 in analysis)

    Figure 2. Age-Sex Standardized Rates of Chronic Beers Drug Use Among
              Seniors on Public Drug Programs in Select Provinces, 2000-2001
              to 2005-2006 (Figure 4 in analysis)

    Table 1.  Top Five Beers Drugs, by Number of Chronic Beers Users as a
              Percentage of Senior Claimants on Public Drug Programs, in
              Select Provinces, 2005-2006 (Table 2 in analysis)

    Table 2.  Top Two Fastest-Growing and Top Two Fastest-Declining Beers
              Drugs Between 2000-2001 and 2005-2006, by Number of Chronic
              Users on Public Drug Programs in Select Provinces (Minimum of
              1% of Senior Claimants in 2005-2006) (Table 3 in analysis)

For further information:

For further information: Media contacts: Christina Lawand, (613)
241-7860 ext. 4310, Cell: (613) 299-5695,; Leona
Hollingsworth, (613) 241-7860 ext. 4140, Cell: (613) 612-3914,

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