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Adverse drug reactions are a national problem.

What governments should do to address this big problem among ageing population.

Today were looking into Canada, where senior citizens over 65 take 7.4 prescription drugs every day on average.

This is a summary of an article published by "Evidence Network.ca" which is an arm of the Canadian institute of health research.

Experts have pointed to increased drug utilization as a driver of health-care spending in Canada for years, and safety issues are increasingly salient. Seniors are five times more likely than younger Canadians to be hospitalized as a result of an adverse drug reaction.

Seniors face a higher risk of adverse drug reactions in part because of physiological changes as we age that alter the way our bodies respond to medications and process them. For instance, our kidneys and liver tend to lose functional ability and become less efficient in flushing out drugs.

The dangers of multiple medications for seniors are seen in doctors’ offices and hospitals. The more medications they consume, the more likely seniors are to require urgent medical attention or go to emergency departments. A study found that 12 per cent of Canadian seniors taking five or more medications have experienced an adverse reaction requiring medical attention.

Governments could use legislation and financial instruments to much greater effect to steer the country’s efforts in the right direction. Required is a comprehensive national strategy that involves leadership and engagement from Health Canada, provincial and territorial health ministries and local health authorities.

Building on the 2015 recommendations of the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, such a strategy would entail revising the drug-approval process, monitoring newly marketed drugs prescribed to seniors, improving reporting on adverse drug reactions and encouraging independent research into off-label prescription- drug use.

Provincial and territorial pharmacare programs should be extended to provide broader and more systematic coverage of effective non-drug therapies whenever appropriate, to treat older patients with chronic conditions.

Clearly, much more can and should be done by governments to address this serious health issue for our aging population.

Nicole F. Bernier is a researcher and writer on Canadian health and social policy and expert adviser with EvidenceNetwork.ca. She worked from 2011 to 2016 as research director at the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

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