Medication May Not Improve Quality Of Life For The Elderly

Researchers have revealed that prescribing some medicines to elderly people in order to stave off illnesses could just mean changing the nature of diseases and reduce life quality overall.

Doctors found that medicines such as statins, which are given to fight heart disease, could mean that cancer or dementia take hold of the patients who take it instead. In a statement in the British Medical Journal, a group of doctors said that some GPs were prescribing medications to prevent heart disease to all ages, possibly in return for financial incentives or meeting government targets, regardless of age.

As many as 40 million statins are currently written up by doctors as part of the government’s target of cutting heart disease by 40 percent by 2010, with patiets perceived as a high risk taking up the majority of prescriptions.

Dr Iona Heath, who practices in London, was concerned that there is no upper age limit for assessing the risk of heart disease and questioned the morality of giving medication to elderly patients to prolong a life, which might be hit by age-related illness such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.

“If you said I can give you this drug and it will reduce your risk of dying from a heart attack, people would have a different reaction to if you said I can give you this drug which will reduce your risk of a heart attack but increase the risk of you being diagnosed with cancer or dementia,” Dr Heath said.

She added that polls had shown that the elderly were more concerned with pain and indignity than from suffering heart disease. “You have to die of something,” she said and recommended that government funding should be spent on bettering quality of life for older patients, such as supplying cataract operations and joint replacements.