A new study has found that older patients are largely ignored when it comes to prescribing blood pressure-lowering drugs.
Researchers at the universities of Oxford and Birmingham tracked prescribing for nearly 37,000 people, finding that more elderly patients be prescribed drugs to tackle high blood pressure and cholesterol. Their results have been published on the British Medical Journal website.
The study revealed that blood pressure-lowering drugs prescribing dropped after the age of 85, while for treatment for high cholesterol the fall started at 75. Some experts have suggested that there could be valid reasons for the drop, but this study certainly seems to outline some interesting trends.
Prescribing of both types of drugs increased every five years after the ages of 40 to 44. However, by the age of 75 statin use had peaked at 29 per cent, falling to 23 per cent after that. Blood pressure drugs peaked later at 57 per cent at age 80 to 84 and then started declining afterwards.
Despite some experts saying there are reasons for the ‘trough and peak-like’ trends, the researchers of the study have claimed this should not be happening. They pointed to the fact that blood pressure drugs had been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease in the elderly, while there was nothing to suggest statins should not be used.
Writing for the BMJ, they said: “With continuing advances in healthcare, the elderly population is increasing and people are living to an older age. They should… not be ignored.”
However, June Davison, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, hit back at these claims, saying: “Available evidence would suggest that older people can benefit from heart protective drugs, but more research is needed. Sometimes there are good reasons for not prescribing certain medicines.
“An older person may be more vulnerable to particular side-effects or already be on multiple medicines for other health conditions, meaning it isn’t always appropriate to prescribe additional medicines.”