I don’t want to believe this depressing statistic, but sadly I do.
Nearly half of all adults aged 65+ in the UK take at least FIVE prescription drugs a day, according to a survey of 15,000 people by the Cambridge Institute of Public Health published earlier this month.
Some were found to be taking TWENTY-THREE different types of medication, a significant proportion of them to counteract the side-effects of something else they’d already been prescribed.
And there’s more.
Twenty years ago, only 12% of over-65s took five drugs a day, while between 1997 and now the percentage taking no drugs at all has dropped from 20% to just 8%.
So as 2017 draws to a close, only eight in every one hundred older adults in the UK is not popping a prescribed pill of some sort every single day.
What the hell is going on here? How have we arrived at a point where so many people are not only being so comprehensively medicalised but also appear to be acquiescing in the process?
Let’s be clear: this isn’t a personal attack on any individual, and nor is it a formal complaint against specific medics or the NHS as a whole, but I am questioning how we’ve arrived at this point, why GPs in particular still seem so deeply wedded to handing out prescription after prescription, and why so many people appear happy not to question them.
And in case this sounds like a rant from the sidelines, I have had first-hand experience with older friends and family of exactly what can happen when a cornucopia of chemicals is involved. How come the GPs couldn’t see that one drug was clearly doing battle with another? How come it took a lay person — with no training and access to far fewer resources — to dig out the prescribing info and identify all the polypharmacy contraindications?
Why was that ever my job?
I am also very definitely going to challenge the continuing cosy relationship between pharma and all those involved in marketing its products. According to the sector’s own body, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, in 2016 doctors and pharmacists were getting paid around £40 million a year for an assortment of services and support. The recipients will doubtless argue that this influences their decision-making not one jot, but how can that possibly inspire confidence when it’s underpinning our entire ‘health’ service?
However, we are — as they say — where we are, and I’m not going any further down this pharma rabbit hole right now. I will instead just leave this here…
Growing older does not give any of us carte blanche to hand over the decision-making around our own well-being to anybody else.
I refuse to buy into Big Pharma’s five a day — what about you?