One in two older people receives potentially unsuitable medication. This results in a risk of undesirable interactions or side effects such as a drop in blood pressure and visual disturbances, according to an analysis published on Thursday by the AOK Scientific Institute (Wido). Women are particularly affected.

More than half of the prescriptions for such drugs concern stomach protection preparations, the so-called proton pump inhibitors. These medications are prescribed, among other things, for complaints such as acid reflux, to prevent stomach bleeding when taking painkillers or anticoagulants at the same time, or even a gastrointestinal ulcer.

Long-term use of these medications is associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis, bone fractures and certain infections, especially in older people. According to the analysis, the frequently prescribed potentially inappropriate medications also include some active ingredients for pain, antidepressants and medications for bladder and prostate problems.

According to the Wido study in 2022, around 8.3 million people over the age of 65 in Germany were prescribed at least one potentially unsuitable drug that could lead to undesirable consequences. That was a share of 50.3 percent in this age group.

The number of medications prescribed at the same time increases significantly with increasing age. 43 percent of those with statutory health insurance over the age of 65 were treated with more than five different active ingredients at the same time in 2022. Older patients are particularly at risk of suffering adverse drug events.

“Side effects of medication such as fatigue, drop in blood pressure or visual disturbances can lead to falls or cognitive loss and in some cases can even be life-threatening,” explained Wido managing director Helmut Schröder. It is therefore positive that the proportion of prescriptions for potentially unsuitable medication has decreased over the past ten years. While the proportion of prescriptions for older people was 14.6 percent in 2013, the proportion was 12.3 percent in 2022.