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Seniors in long-term care facilities twice as likely to be on opioids: report

Last Updated May 17, 2018 at 11:00 am EDT

Seniors in long-term care facilities appeared to be twice as likely to be prescribed opioids compared to other people their age and three times as likely to be on antidepressants, according to 2016 data in a new report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

Almost 40 per cent of long-term care residents in British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario and Prince Edward Island were prescribed opioids, compared to 20.4 per cent of all seniors. About 60 per cent of the long-term care residents were on antidepressants, compared to 19.1 per cent of all seniors.

“Residents in long-term care facilities use more drugs than those in the community because they tend to be older, more frail and sicker than seniors living in the community,” the report states.

The long-term care residents were taking an average of 9.9 different classes of drugs compared to 6.7 for other seniors. A drug class refers to a group of chemicals that treat similar medical conditions, an example being opioids, which are prescribed for pain.

About one in four of all seniors were found to be prescribed at least 10 different classes of drugs in 2016, which the report notes “did not change significantly” since 2011.

The seniors who were taking 10 or more classes of drugs were found to be five times more likely to be hospitalized for an adverse reaction, often in connection with cancer drugs, opioids or blood thinners.

Drugs for high cholesterol were used by nearly half of all seniors and were the most commonly prescribed class of drug. Cardiovascular-related drugs accounted for five of the top 10 most commonly prescribed drug classes.