It is important that Canadians have access to safe, appropriate and effective drug therapies; the right drug, for the right condition, for the right person, at the right time. It is also recognized that drugs can lead to adverse drug reactions regardless of appropriate use. Adverse reactions not only lead to an increased risk of morbidity and mortality, but can also lead to an increased economic burden through additional drug use, hospitalization and repeated physician visits.
Evidence shows that older adults (65 years and older, hereafter referred to as "seniors") are more at risk for adverse effects due to complex drug therapies and age-related changes to the way drugs are processed by the body. A 2002 literature review noted that "28% of all emergency department visits were drug related, of which as many as 24% resulted in hospital admission." The study showed that 70% of the drug-related emergency visits are preventable and that, "women and elderly individuals seemed to be at greatest risk."
Although prescribing information is not readily available, drug claims data can provide insight into prescribing trends of drugs in seniors. Making use of some of the methods developed by the Health Quality Council in Saskatchewan for their 2005 report, Improving the Quality of Drug Management of Saskatchewan Seniors Living in the Community, this analysis will examine claims trends of seniors in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick from 2000 to 2006. Specifically, it will look at drugs identified by Dr. Mark H. Beers as drugs that are "potentially inappropriate" to prescribe to seniors due to an elevated risk of adverse effects. This list of drugs has become internationally recognized as the "Beers list." This analysis examines seniors who made at least one claim for a drug from the Beers list ("Beers users"), as well as seniors who made claims for a drug from the Beers list on a regular basis ("chronic Beers users").
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