A report from the Lown Institute, Medication Overload: America’s Other Drug Problem, documents a steep rise in the number of medications taken by older Americans, and a parallel rise in serious adverse drug events (ADEs) that can lead to loss of mobility, falls, hospitalization, and in some cases, death.

Among the most telling statistics, the report cites:

  • A 300 percent increase over two decades in the number of older adults taking five or more medications. More than 40 percent of older Americans take five or more medications, putting them at significant increased risk for an ADE.
  • In 2018, ten million older adults (one in five) experienced an ADE, five million sought medical attention; 280,000 hospitalizations resulted from ADEs.
  • The rate of emergency department visits for ADEs doubled between 2006 and 2014, from 5 to 10 per 1000 older adults (194,000 to 450,000 ED visits).

In response to this alarming trend, the Lown Institute is calling for a national plan of action to tackle overprescribing.

“The data in this report should serve as a clarion call for a national strategy to address medication overload,” said Dr. Terry Fulmer, President of The John A. Hartford Foundation who served on the advisory committee for the project. “We have identified appropriate prescribing and medication management as one of the four pillars for age-friendly health systems. It is crucial to the health and well-being of all older adults.”

To read the report, click here.
To read a press release about the report, click here.
To learn more about the Age-Friendly Health Systems initiative, click here.