Are senior citizens being overmedicated?
June 3rd, 2011
09:42 AM ET

Are senior citizens being overmedicated?

Strong, antipsychotic drugs are being prescribed more often to senior citizens in U.S. nursing homes, setting off a debate about whether it's the right treatment for the elderly suffering from dementia.

Daniel Levinson, inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, believes this increase - detailed in a recent study by his office - is a cause for alarm.  "The report found that too often, elderly residents are prescribed antipsychotic drugs in ways that violate government standards for unnecessary drug use," he wrote in a commentary for CNN.com.

Psychiatrist Daniel Carlat disagrees, saying the study Levinson cites is a "blizzard of statistics" that doesn't tell the entire story.  "When these drugs are successful, they soothe the inner turmoil that makes life intolerable for these patients, improving their quality of life dramatically," Carlat wrote in his commentary for CNN.com.

The conflicting guidance is making it even more difficult for those trying to make sure their aging loved ones are getting the best care during the final years of their lives.  Laura Steckler, a Florida resident, recently sought treatment for her elderly mother after she suffered an episode of paranoia and hallucinations.  She tells CNN how she found herself in the middle of the debate over how much is too much medication for the elderly:   

Post by:
Filed under: Medications • Mental Health

soundoff (397 Responses)
  1. Sal

    I believe a lot of the problem stems from TV drug commercials that tell everyone to "ask your doctor" to prescribe this or that medication. We are being fed that medication is a cure all for all our problems. I am 73 and haven't been to a doctor since I had an accident in 1979. I don't go for check ups, feel great, and I don't even take an aspirin. I told a retired doctor once that I don't go for checkups and I don't go to see a doctor. He told me that in a way I am doing the right thing because he said once you start going to a doctor he will find something wrong with you whether it's minor or major just to keep you coming back. I stay away from doctors. I would have to fall over before I go see a doctor. 

    June 4, 2011 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wow

      I hope you don't talk anybody else into your bad advice.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:16 | Report abuse |
    • MOMe2_5

      Good advice. People need to realize that doctors, now more than ever, don't have the "right" answers to most questions. Our medical system is great for emergencies...but as far as "health care" our system is simply a sickness management system. This test shows so abnormality, no one looks for the cause, instead they Rx drugs for the symptoms which have side-effects often worse than the initial problem. So then we are on another med to deal with the side-effects and so on and on. Why we all have been duped into believing that giving a pill that is harmful or even poisonous to a healthy person, to a sick person, is beyond me.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:24 | Report abuse |
    • John

      This is terrible advice. Please, everyone that reads this, ignore it.

      Just because you "feel great" doesn't mean that everything is okay. Most severe health problems go completely unnoticed and have no symptoms: (read: high cholesterol, high blood pressure –> USA's biggest killer: heart disease). Not taking an aspirin at your age is just foolish.

      Swallow your pride and get a checkup.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:26 | Report abuse |
    • John

      And by saying "ignore this", I was talking about the post I was responding to, not my own. Obviously getting your BP and cholesterol checked is good advice.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:27 | Report abuse |
    • donna

      I could rattle off medical histories of people in my family that would make your head spin. So you're lucky! Good for you! But not everyone gets to stay alive without medical help. Sometimes people are on medication because the other option is death or impaired living. There is nothing wrong with helping your body by using medical treatments. I WISH I had the luxury of saying "oh I just stay away from doctors" and "I've never taken medication and I feel great!" And preventative measures- such as annual check ups- can catch health problems before they are so far gone that they can't be treated. Your righteousness is misplaced.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:33 | Report abuse |
    • evoc

      When the patients become violent with dementia, they become medicated according to body weight and degree of symptoms. Often, this leaves them sitting in chairs sleeping all day. In come cases a large man may be so medicated he is fed, his eyes still closed, as he somehow is able to swallow the food without chocking. If he is walked to the bathroom, his eyes are still closed. Reducing that person's medication leaves him dangerous to the caring staff who tends to his every need. There appears to be no viable compromise at the present time. It can be a sad experience to take a trip through a dementia care facility.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:35 | Report abuse |
    • Brian


      If a person doesn't want to work with their doctor to maintain their health, I'd really rather them not come in. He shouldn't be wasting a doctor's time if he doesn't want to manage his health. If people think doctors harm them, they really shouldn't come to the doctor. Will they die of a hard attack or cancer or some deadly disease? Maybe not, maybe they will. As long as they accept that those things are a possibility it's up to them to decide when they want to come in. If they don't mind catching cancer after it has metastasized and is inoperable, that's their choice and it's their life.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:36 | Report abuse |

      @ John: Why should he go see a doctor if he feels fine? If it ain't broke, what is there he needs to see a Dr. about? It's worry-warts like you that keep the Medical monolith overmedicating the population.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:37 | Report abuse |
    • diggit

      Yes it's too easy now. Not only does every other commercial say "ask your doctor" but they practically give this stuff away. Unfortunately doctors are the new 'drug dealers' and we have to remember to just say no.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:39 | Report abuse |
    • debbie s in kcmo

      LIKE thumbs up

      June 4, 2011 at 13:43 | Report abuse |
    • Brian


      There are certain things that regular screening can help prevent. THere are certain diseases that you can catch BEFORE symptoms develop, and in doing some improve the chance of survival significantly. Not every disease is like that, and yes doctor's haven't alwys been 100% right with our methods in screening (FOr example, regular screening for prostate cancer is undergoing changes, because it isn't as clear cut as we previously thought). The best example for the original poster that I can think of is a colonoscopy. If you want until you develop noticeable symptoms (Bleeding, or significant weight loss/fatigue) the cancer may be fairly far along, including already having metastasized. We can pick up polyps before they develop symptoms and remove them. Are their risks associated with colonoscopy? Yes, but it is something elderly patients should discuss with a doctor. Hypertension is another issue. YOu can feel perfectly fine with fairly high blood pressure. THat doesn't mean the hypertension harming you over a long period of time.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:44 | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      I haven't seen a Dr. or a Dentist for the past 15 years. I spent the first 10 years of my life in a hospital, because there was always something wrong. You want to be healthy, change your diet, exercise and stay away from all medication. Doctors have minimal training in Nutrition, odd since they are Doctors. My teeth are perfect ( I don't use TP w Fluoride) and floss. People believe what the TV tells them and they spend their lives on pills and paying Doctors massive amounts to stay sick...seems prettty stupid.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:45 | Report abuse |
    • donna

      Matt, just because you thrive without medication doesn't mean everyone would. I exercise daily and I spend two hours a day preparing fresh foods- and guess what? I'm still sick! None of that changes the fact that my body doesn't produce saliva or tears, the exercise hasn't cured the hereditary heart problem I have, and by golly, the pesky bone deformities haven't morphed into normal bones despite how much spinach I eat. I keep waiting for this healthy living to fix my thyroid, but it's just not happening. And after losing three family members on one side to lymphoma in the past 15 years, and two on the other side from sudden heart death, it would be cruel to my family if I just skipped my medical check ups and testing. Get off your high horse and realize that all of our bodies are different.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:55 | Report abuse |
    • debbie s in kcmo

      agree with this, john, "Obviously getting your BP and cholesterol checked is good advice." & blood sugar... blood count.... liver kidney, at least... but LOOK INTO ALTERNATIVES before taking the scrips.... don't just swallow hook line & sinker... that's what drug companies like

      June 4, 2011 at 13:59 | Report abuse |
    • bridgette patterson

      that was a nice and touching story.

      June 4, 2011 at 14:47 | Report abuse |
    • Carla Hurst-Chandler

      I agree completely...and I was a nurse for years. Too often physicians "throw another pill at it" instead of listening to the signs and symptoms. Often patients ask for things they have seen on TV...and the physician prescribes them! American society has predominately became "have a problem...label it a disorder...and take a pill for it" and we don't restrict this to ourselves...stop by any elementary school nurse's office and watch the # of kids that are now "medicated for our convenience". Do I know that ADHD is an actual clinical diagnosis...yes...Do I believe that ALL of these children lined up for their Ritalin have the disorder...no... Actually, was able to experience this first-hand in 2008 when I was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor (and given 12 months to live) They followed the MRI and diagnosis closely up with "You will want a prescription for Lexapro- an anti-depressant" I firmly answered "No thank you...if this isn't the appropriate time to be a bit depressed I can't think WHEN it would be." Here it is 2011. I'm still standing. Do the research...don't be afraid to question the doctor...and if it doesn't sound like it is right for you...it probably isn't.

      June 4, 2011 at 14:57 | Report abuse |
    • HoustonVol

      I am also on the question a Dr. list. I do go for my annual check up, but that is basically it. I am 40, and only tack a multi-vitamin everyday. I really question our medicate first society. We take double the number of pills everyday as any other industrial nation. There is a lot broken with our health care system, to start – Drs. only make money when you are sick. They can only feed their family if they can keep you coming back over and over every month. Think about that for a second.

      June 4, 2011 at 16:00 | Report abuse |
  2. Evangeline

    It's a vicious circle created by major corporations. Monsanto and Cargill create foods that make people unhealthy and fat (GMOS and high fructose corn syrup) the pharmaceutical companies create drugs to help with the many ailments caused by bad diets (diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity) then the health insurance companies reap record profts on the maladies people have. Finally the government (run by these special interests) create monstrocities like the Food modernization Act of 2010 which DICTATES what people and and can not eat, where they can buy things and basically is destroying the small farmers across this nation. It's time to WAKE up people! Corporations are running our lives with the government's whole hearted consent ( due to well lined pockets). If you don't like this then vote for REAL CHANGE and someone who honestly cares about the PEOPLE, not the corporations. Someone CNN is marginalizing already. Ron Paul 2012.

    June 4, 2011 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • GwT

      Please stop the hype. Think for once: every single food crop we have had in the past 50 centuries has been purposefully bred through selective processes to produce crops with one or more desirable traits. In essence, every food crop we've created for 5000 years has been "genetically modified" by agriculture, so the hype surrounding the use of a different technology (and agriculture IS a technology) is moot, generated by people that have limited understanding of science and fear it.

      June 4, 2011 at 12:42 | Report abuse |
    • yep

      I think more and more people are waking up to this fact.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
    • Polly

      GwT,you have a lot to learn."purposefully bred" and filled with chemicals,till it not fit for human consumption is two very different things

      June 4, 2011 at 13:52 | Report abuse |
    • debbie s in kcmo


      why no thumbs up/down/like/agree buttons here???

      June 4, 2011 at 14:01 | Report abuse |
  3. Sandra Boletchek

    This is a very serious problem and doctors need to be held accountable as the elder is helpless and the adult children of the elder are helpless when medications are prescribed as what do they know about medications and what is needed? The one in control is the THE DOCTOR and the only one to be held accountable unless the drug companies need to be investigated to find out if the doctor makes more money from his prescribed overmedications with bonus rewards from the drug company. Get to the root, THE DOCTOR, of the problem and the problem will mostly disappear. I am Sandra M Boletchek and live in an assisted living standard adult facility in the Washington DC Metro Area for 10 years now age 72 years old.

    June 4, 2011 at 12:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Valerie

      Good point, Sandra!

      June 4, 2011 at 13:10 | Report abuse |
    • John

      Maybe if people your age were more compliant with their medications and stopped assuming they knew everything about their pills, then doctors wouldn't have to keep prescribing new medicines, or high doses .

      June 4, 2011 at 13:29 | Report abuse |
    • hermitzzz

      Good for you, Sandra. \i wish you the best and hope that you can continue to keep an eye out for yourself.
      I"m 65, and am rooting for you. I"ve been watching this sort of thing and can agree 100% with what you had to say regarding too much or unnecessary meds for the elderly. Besides benefiting the doctors, it's also done to keep chaos to a minimum in these housing accommodations, in my humble opinion, anyway. I don't trust any of them, too much goes on behind closed doors, with no accountability until something goes wrong, then it's swept under the bed to hide it.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:34 | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Hermitzz...if only you could see behind those "closed doors". They'll all just sitting around a table developing a devious master plan to take over all assisted living centers. WHy you might ask? Because they all take pleasure in torturing people. You know when a patient gets taken into that one room at the end of the hall with the nurse when they are feeling sick? That's a torture chamber. Don't go in! You can't handle the horrible truth!

      That was sarcasm by the way...there is actually nothing going on behind closed doors. In fact, most of those doors are probably utility closets.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:39 | Report abuse |
    • Sandra Boletchek of The Washington DC Metro rea.

      Hello Sandra Boletchek again... I am a very active advocate for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, especially homebound isolated elders. What has been my exp

      June 4, 2011 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
    • Sandra Boletchek of The Washington DC Metro Area

      Hello again... As a 10 year resident of an adult home, assisted living standard facility I want to share with you my experience with this overly medicated elders issue. This is not true in our faciility, not in general at least. We have won many awards, our management, for being a role model for other facilities. I have myself as a resident have addressed this issue of several elders acting out against me over these 10 years with the management and I was told by the Administrator he does NOT want to suggest medication unless no other choice as he does NOT want overly medicated elders in our facility. The elder if capable or the caretaker should and could stop the overly medicated of elders concept too if there is not management such as ours to oversee this problem. The doctor is the one who is the most accountable as there must be a tracking method that is in place to search out these doctors who overly medicate their patients and find out why ? Money benefits to them I do wonder again??? If not money why??? Something between the drug company and the doctor to benefit both with bonus monies? Why??? We need to address this issue as zero tolerance is our goal. Sandra Boletchek of The Washington DC Metro Area.

      June 4, 2011 at 15:39 | Report abuse |
  4. nemo

    One flew east....one flew west...one flew over the coo coo's nest!!! Your all a bunch of slaves!

    June 4, 2011 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Lol

    I am going to hazard to guess that the most vocal ones on this board are the ones that never actually see their demented and delirious loved ones when hospitalized. And i just love how people make all this prescription medication stuff to be a conspiracy theory for doctors. I havent made a single cent off any medication i have written. Its even hard to get a free pen anymore in a hospital setting. And i will also add that the medicate everything culture we have in medicine is being driven by the public – everyone wants the magic pill to fix everything and noone takes responsibility of their meds.

    +1 for bhupesh rathod

    June 4, 2011 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • simple guy

      And i will also add that the medicate everything culture we have in medicine is being driven by the public – everyone wants the magic pill to fix everything and noone takes responsibility of their meds... then why do you doctors keep prescribing medicine just because the public wants it, from being brain washed by drug commercials, just say "no you don't need it"

      June 4, 2011 at 12:54 | Report abuse |
    • Mike Distance

      Exactly, don't blame doctors, they are just giving people what they want and they don't make anything off of it. Same thing with the trillion dollar ad industry for drugs, ultimately they don't work and it is the peoples incessant need for the magic cure that drives the sales.

      June 4, 2011 at 12:55 | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Simple guy,

      It's damn if we do, damn if we don't. We tell people "You don't need these medications, just alter your lifestyle or deal with it" (I wouldn't say that literally) and they complain that we don't understand, we don't care about them, we aren't doing our job. We do give in and give them what we want and then we get labelled as money hungry people who are harming our patients by overmedicating them.

      Though I have to say I'm not directly talking about this particular case. The use of antipsychotics is complicated, the drugs aren't as easy as many other drugs to use. We know how they work (generally), but they are incredibly variable from patient to patient compared to many drugs. The ways you measure whether they are working are also far more complicated then other drugs (You can't just measure a number, like BP or HbA1c, to judge whether it is working). My above comment is more directed at lifestyle related medications.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:31 | Report abuse |
    • Carla Hurst-Chandler

      So...maybe it is time for the physicians to be responsible and JUST SAY NO.

      June 4, 2011 at 15:04 | Report abuse |
    • Carla Hurst-Chandler

      @ Mike Distance. I certainly DO blames the physicians. They have control over what they prescribe. No one gets anything unless they write the script.

      June 4, 2011 at 15:07 | Report abuse |
  6. Martin

    We're not just over medicating seniors, the USA is a nation of drug addicts, either prescription drugs or other wise.

    There are very few nations on the planet where the average consumer knows the names of medications, thanks to massive advertising by Big Pharma, most drugs in the USA are household brand names.

    My own doctor in Canada is a very strong proponent of fixing medical issues through lifestyle change, and short term medication use only. He will explain in detail how most (he claims over 85%) illnesses can be fixed with simple lifestyle changes and refuses to put people on long term medication courses.

    Big Pharma hasn't come up with a single cure for ANY disease since the polio vaccine was released, and that wasn't Big Pharma, it was an independant researcher in a University lab, who gave it to the world for free.

    Big Pharma is NOT interested in the slightest in curing anything, they just want to produce medication that will "reduce the symptoms of disease", and get you hooked on the medication for the rest of your life and make you believe there are no other options available.

    It's the exact same tactic as drug pushers. Sell a drug that makes you feel better, and get you hooked for the rest of your life. Hell, I've even seen some ads where they say "ask your doctor for a free sample" or "if you can't afford your medication, we can help". Basically, give you free samples, get you hooked, then raise the rates. Sound familiar?

    USA is a nation or drug addicts, unwilling to take the harder route of diet and exercise to fix their medical issues medication free.

    June 4, 2011 at 12:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • debbie s in kcmo

      love your dr! ours (in usa) wonderful, too

      June 4, 2011 at 14:04 | Report abuse |
    • jon

      martin: read the book by carl elliott: white coat, black hat. adventures on the dark side of medicine... you will find it interesting. it is largely about the culture of big pharma, branding diseases, etc. good read, and a very scary one.

      June 4, 2011 at 14:35 | Report abuse |
  7. Peg Price

    Until you have a loved one with dementia, you don't realize what difference these medications can make in their lives. We don't want our loved ones to live with physical pain and we treat that so why do we have problems helping them quell the innner turmoil in the brain with medication?
    It's paramount to be an advocate for your loved one so that you can monitor and observe the medication dosage. It's a team effort and bears watchful caring eyes.
    I think it's a tragedy that we have no direct drugs for dementia's agitation.. Nothing has come down the pipeline in over 50 years and I wonder why?
    I know this all this from personal experience.

    June 4, 2011 at 12:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SMD66

      I hear you Peg. I'll bet not one of these people have ever had a family member or taken care of patients with dementia. I'm an RN and can't tell you how many elderly patients are out of control. Not all medications work. I've been hit, kicked, scratched, pinched, slapped, and verbally abused by elderly patients. We try to keep them from hurting themselves, but it's not easy. I currently work in a state psych hospital. We get dumped with dementia patients that even the nursing homes can't handle anymore. The doctors will try different medications to see if we can get their behaviors undercontrol so someone will take them back.

      Before anyone else makes more ingorant comments, go work in a nursing home with a locked dementia unit. Then you can make an informed comment.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse |
  8. RunningBare

    In response to this article's main question:

    YA THINK?!?!?!?!?

    June 4, 2011 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • debbie s in kcmo

      D I T T O

      June 4, 2011 at 13:49 | Report abuse |
  9. Mott the Hoople

    Did you ever notice that there are no cures for diseases anymore? There are only life-long "treatments". Got high blood pressure? Here, take this pill. No, it won't cure you, but it will treat you as long as you take it. Got high cholesterol? High blood sugar? Same thing. There is no profit for the drug companies to cure anyone. But plenty of profit to "treat" a disease, and ensure a life-long customer.

    June 4, 2011 at 12:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Foodie

      You say that "there's no cure anymore," as though at some time in the past there WAS a cure. But ... of course ... there has never been a cure. In the past, people simply ... died.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse |
  10. Fred

    We're over-medicating everyone. Why should seniors be spared?

    June 4, 2011 at 12:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • debbie s in kcmo

      the drugs affect the elderly differently... they need LOWER DOSES, or different med

      June 4, 2011 at 13:52 | Report abuse |
    • debbie s in kcmo

      and the health workers are not able to keep tabs/watch for problems??? too busy?? ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL :/

      June 4, 2011 at 13:53 | Report abuse |

    This is exactly why we need a pharmacist here. Why won't we have a pharmacist that can review every medication and recommend a medication consolidation? How much money could have been saved, and how many needless medications can be avoided.

    June 4, 2011 at 12:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • donna

      I get all of my medications from a pharmacist, who monitors all of my prescriptions and looks for contradictions. Where do you get your medication from if not a pharmacist?

      June 4, 2011 at 13:59 | Report abuse |
    • Sandra Boletchek of The Washington DC Metro Area

      How can too much doctor prescribed medication for individuals be solved in the USA? The several Pharmacist who have posted have really enlightened us and please more Pharmacist post and enlighten us more. Thank you for your input. The Pharmacist can give Information the public does not know in general. They have Information regulating agencies can use with meds records to back up their information so these agencies can orchestrate proposed changes. This forum is excellent and all the post are of great interest testing the pulse of our Nation on this issue. Thank you CNN... I have the best possible doctor ever and he believes in preventive measures before meds. There are many great to good doctors out and we are not bashing you at all and applaud you always. We need you as our role models. Thank you.

      June 5, 2011 at 06:20 | Report abuse |
  12. Mike Distance

    Any "extra" medication that seniors may be taking is money that goes straight into the pockets of big pharma, this is good for America. Wealth trickles down, the more people at the top have, the more people at the bottom will have. So the answer is very simple, we are medicating our seniors just right. The more medication people take the better it is for everyone, there are a lot of diseases and afflictions these days, everyone should be on something. It is good to be proactive and to try and ward off any potential depression by taking anti-depressants at the earliest sign or preemptively.

    June 4, 2011 at 12:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Hank

    When you get to take care of demented patients who are a danger to themselves and others by biting and scratching at staff then fall constantly, then you can have room to talk. Everybody wants to blame the healthcare provider for their ailments, but what about the patient who, in the beginning, thinks nothing is wrong and the family doesn't want to go through the hassle of dealing with the diagnosis and by that time its already too late?

    What about an economy where people are so poor they can't afford preventative measures? What about a government that allows millions of illegals cross the borders and clog up our clinics and ER's, who don't have to pay their bills, which forces providers to raise their premiums for those that do? You need to look at the whole picture here. People want providers to provide the minimal amount of care so that their family members will get hurt some how and those families can sue someone. All we can resort to now are cheap alarms when someone is a fall risk. Forget about safety restraints with something as simple as a seatbealt for their wheelchair. Now, there is one nurse and two aides responsible for 30 plus patients. We don't have the staff to adequately take care of these types of patients without some kind of help. And, sorry to say this, but antipsychotics are one of those aids.

    June 4, 2011 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kate

      well said! My feelings exactly...

      June 4, 2011 at 13:05 | Report abuse |
    • lol

      If I remember correctly, nursing staff are at the highest risk for non-death related workplace violence from patients and family members. How is that fair? Can nurses start suing families of the 90 year old demented / delirious lady who refuse to help calm their loved one down and refuse meds?

      June 4, 2011 at 13:13 | Report abuse |
  14. Marci

    Yes, mylate Grandfather was in great health unti;l age 85- over 14 years ago-that's when the medical system decided we have a whole group of elderly people we can bleed money from using medicare as the tool.

    We live longer but the last 5 years of a 95 years olds life are filled with doctors vists a, pharmacy visits and hour after hour of medication. Not such a great quality of life if you are in a fog fromall the medication.

    June 4, 2011 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rcr4624

      Marci you are absolutely right. Americans are absolutely afraid of dying and they can't get use to the fact that their 90 year old mother is dying. They want EVERYTHING DONE. I worked in nursing homes for over 20 years and the residents were wonderful. Unfortunately in many cases the families were so stupid in their expectations for their loved one that the MD and nurses had to medicate, medicate, medicated. Families don't realize that some medications require a second or third to counteract the side effects of the first. Families expect their loved ones to live forever.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:07 | Report abuse |
    • lol


      I also want to add that if people weren't so "afraid" to talk about end of life planning and care (much like the idiots calling out death committees and crap), then the elderly would live out of the end of their lives in the comfort of home with family rather than being intubated in the intensive care unit on pressors and dying a miserable death. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the discussion of palliative at the end of life, because death is a "disease" that has a 100% mortality.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:11 | Report abuse |
    • Foodie

      Wait a minute ... Medicare does not "bleed money" from anyone other than taxpayers. If a Medicare-covered patient is prescribed unnecessary or inappropriate services, then yes, that Medicare patient is burdened with additional deductibles and copayments. But, even if the patient happens to be in a "doughnut hole" item that must be 100% patient-paid, there are additional administrative and overhead markups that are charged back to Uncle Sam, and ultimately paid by all taxpayers.

      And at least the patient (or the patient's representative) can bring a malpractice claim. But the taxpayer can't do anything. Congressman Ryan's plan is just silly ... it would effectively eliminate Medicare. But as a former Medicare lawyer, I can assure you that there are MANY ways we could drastically cut back the cost of the Medicare system. And reducing costs for participants is NOT one of them.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:25 | Report abuse |
  15. the machine

    There's no such thing as "overmedication"

    signed – Charlie Sheen

    June 4, 2011 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. a slozomby

    we over medicate everyone. its the american way.

    too sad. theres a pill for that. too happy theres a pill for that. kid cant sit still theres a pill for that. too fat theres a pill for that. too thin theres a pill for that. cant get it up. theres a pill for that.

    June 4, 2011 at 13:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Mike Distance

    All you people want to blame doctors and drug companies, they are completely innocent, if they were as bad as anyone said, people would be going out and killing doctors and drug company CEO's, but guess what they aren't. Doctors and CEO's are some of the most respected members of our society, which is PROOF POSITIVE you people are wrong. Put the blame where it belongs on the person who is taking the pill!

    June 4, 2011 at 13:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • simple guy

      you are not so "innocent" if you KEEP writing drugs for people who DON'T need it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      June 4, 2011 at 13:04 | Report abuse |
    • Pablo

      You may want to visit the link below. If you actually the docs and drug companies are innocent it is must reading. Please do more research or more reading of current news before you make sure an ill-founded statement.


      June 4, 2011 at 13:40 | Report abuse |
    • donna

      I take lots of medications and I research each one before I take it. But even so, I just don't have the training to understand everything my doctors do, and that's why I go to the doctor for medical help instead of a plumber. Doctors are 100% responsible for every medication they prescribe.

      June 4, 2011 at 14:01 | Report abuse |
  18. Nurse Bryan

    I've been trying to say this for years, and now experts are like, 'Gee, I think were medicating elderly too much'. It doesn't matter though, it"s all about the pharmaceutical companies making their money–bribing administration who then push those who prescribe medication to meet a quota. But what do I know, I'm just an LPN

    June 4, 2011 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. frootyme

    YES, YES, YES big time.

    June 4, 2011 at 13:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. lol

    simple guy

    then why do you doctors keep prescribing medicine just because the public wants it, from being brain washed by drug commercials, just say "no you don't need it"


    Do you know what happens when we say "no you don't need it"? They will go around to different doctors until they get what they want. I will also add that I meet just as much resistance when trying to reducing the number of medications – what's even more ironic is that it's the non-essential medications that people are the most resistant to giving up. Most people are more than willing to give up the meds that have been shown to extend your life, particularly if you have heart disease or diabetes.

    June 4, 2011 at 13:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • simple guy

      so let them go to another doctor, why give in to their "wants" could it be YOU want them to keep coming back as a regular customer ?

      June 4, 2011 at 14:09 | Report abuse |
  21. Ted

    Once you tald about medical supplies, and medicine costs, it's a hidden agenda in this country. We need more explosure in this areas. I know, my wife is Pharm Rep.

    June 4, 2011 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Reefer Power

    I believe the seniors should have the right to grow and smoke their own `herb`.

    June 4, 2011 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. F.L.May SR

    At age three I had Polio. For the next 12 years I had cold after cold. Age 17 I went to my orthopedic Dr. He asked what kind of exercize I was getting . When I answered" Bowling" he almost hit the ceiling. His retort was,{ Young man you better stop or you will not be walking by time you are 30. Today I am looking forward to my 86th birthday. I am still walking tho not very fast. Some doctors have the patients health at heart. Some look for ways to take away there wealth.

    June 4, 2011 at 13:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. frustrated doc

    there is a lot of misunderstanding out there about medicine and it is sometimes very painful to watch. Cnn is particularly bad about promoting the anomosity directed towards doctors and other health care providers. Often, this is promoted by quacks with minimal understanding of medicine such as Elizabeth Cohen of CNN.

    regarding the overmedication of seniors, lets step back and read between the lines. Cnn does not spell it out, nor do some in the industry such as the commenting pharmacist here who is upset that docs prescribe 20 something drugs to a patient. Number one, these drugs are not all for behavior usually unless this is a truly psychotic patient with real psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. Most of these elderly patients are on many meds because as we age and do damage to our bodies, we want a doctor to help us be healthier and live longer. Usually, for americans, this comes in the form of demanding meds. It is much easier to ask for lipitor than to stop eating cholesterol containing unhealthy foods such as burgers and fried foods. It is much simpler to ask for metformin or insulin than to simply not eat sugar and exercise for the diabetic. So many of these patients take one to four high blood pressure meds. They take a cholesterol med or two. They take heart medication. They may be on a blood thinner. If they smoked, they may have developed copd and they take one to four meds for their breathing. The list goes on and on. That is part of the truth.

    the other part of the truth is that you cannot simply allow patients to be wildly agitated as it's a danger to themselves, the other patients and the staff. This is why these patients are often given antipsychotics. This is a safety issue my friends.

    now, I will say that bad things, especially neglect, dose happen at long term care facilities. These are not ideal places for very sick people to live. While there are good staff members at these facilities, there are many bad ones. I have seen terrible things come to the hospital from these facilities. That said, these jobs are very frustrating, do not pay well at all, often revolve around cleaning feces from various patients, floors, etc all day and tend to attract less qualified workers. It is a shame, but it is a necessary evil in this day when everyone works (if they are fortunate enough to even have a job in this economy) and no one has the time, nor patience to deal with their frail, demented, often agitated and very sick elderly loved ones. Before crying foul and jumping aboard the elizabeth cohen conspiracy express, visit a place like this for a day, see what it is like. Do some real life research and you will be amazed.

    ps this is coming from a doc who makes zero dollars from prescribing drugs and never will.

    June 4, 2011 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike Distance

      That is TOTAL BS, you should be getting commission on every prescription you write. Something must be done so doctors are better paid, it's not fair.

      June 4, 2011 at 13:32 | Report abuse |
  25. Teri

    If something untoward such as serious injury or death occurs with anyone of any age and it is discovered that the scenario could have potentionally been avoived by a medication the malpracice attornies will have families on speed dial with the speed of an overhead 'code blue' call...

    June 4, 2011 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. David Gill

    I want to say right now, if I get old, and my family stops coming around, and I'm depressed because my body doesn't want to do what it used to do, and did I mention my family stops coming around??? Please medicate Me!!! Talk about putting yourself in someone else's shoes for a minute. So...ok, go ahead and throw me away into a nursing home or care facility, and then take my meds away from me. Double Whammy! Shame on you people.

    June 4, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. IcallBS

    In the pic on the front page, there is a bottle of pills that has every color in the rainbow, including green. This has to be a joke, right? As a pharmacist, I call BS! Those are 'Nerds' candy, right? LOL!

    June 4, 2011 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. kate

    The docs prescribe these as a standing order so when grandma's misbehaving in the middle of the night the nurses at the home can just drug her and not bother the doctor to order something.

    June 4, 2011 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lol

      How about we have the nurses give you a call everytime grandma misbehaves in the middle of the night so you can come in and calm her down?

      June 4, 2011 at 13:27 | Report abuse |
    • David Gill

      I like LOLs comment, yes but let's not forget why Grandma is misbehaving in the first place. She's been put away into a home after spending her whole life saving money and raising a family, and all her loved ones are too busy with their lives to be a part of hers...she's lonely...and upset. Do you blame her? Give her her meds!!!

      June 4, 2011 at 14:44 | Report abuse |
  29. bjd1020

    It’s a vicious cycle and racket....we are all over medicated and that’s the plan. You have the pharmaceutical companies making pills for every ache and pain, the doctors prescribing them for kick backs from the pharmaceutical companies, then the lawyers lined up to sue the pharmaceutical and health insurance companies for complications the pills give you, and who pays the price....the person paying for the insurance and soon when O-Rob-A-care kicks in...the American taxpayer.......If you don’t believe me watch TV for 30 mins and tell me what commercials you see…that’s right. Pill commercial followed by lawyer suing pill commercial followed by health insurance commercial.

    June 4, 2011 at 13:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Sal

    Doctor Kevorkian had the right idea for terminally ill people. Why should anyone suffer needlessly? 

    June 4, 2011 at 13:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • donna

      And some people want to live as long as possible- even if we're old and we know death is coming. Even if i'm bedridden, as long as I have some perception of my kids and grandkids, I'll stay as long as I can.

      June 4, 2011 at 14:05 | Report abuse |

    Since Hillary '"Fixed Health Care" and turned it away from what was best for the patient to what is best for the Insurance carrier and big pharmacetical.The game has been to treat the symptoms and hide the diagnosis so the Insurance carrier will not be responsible in the future.Physicians practice insurance more than they practice medicine.Otherwise they don't get paid.
    All these seniors who put their dues in for this country are being robbed by these politicians and border jumpers who provide the Vote to keep said politicians in power.

    June 4, 2011 at 13:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. mico

    They are trying to reduce the number of people that draw social security.

    June 4, 2011 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Don't Judge

    I have a mother in a nursing home with dementia. It is a brutal disease that eats away at the person's soul. She suffers from hallucinations and delusions along with the memory loss. She had alienated her entire family until we were able to get her into a nursing home and on the medications. Since she has been on the medications, she has accepted her family back again. She isn't the old mom we had, but she we are able to be around her now because of the medications. So, don't judge on our seniors being over-medicated until you have experience having a loved one with dementia.

    June 4, 2011 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • David Gill

      Amen to you!!! and God Bless you for taking a stand on her side! It makes my heart happy to read this from you! Thank You!

      June 4, 2011 at 14:47 | Report abuse |
  34. Josh

    No, were over medicating every living person companies get they're hands on.

    June 4, 2011 at 13:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. fiskenmann

    What's the big deal? Doctor #1 always gives me enough pills to counter attack the pills that Doctor #2 gives me to counter attack the pills that Doctor #3 gives me for my illness. I'm feeling a lot better now......LOLOLOLOL!!!!

    June 4, 2011 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. dadguy

    we're over medicating as a society! Advertisement encourages hypochondria, drug companies' sample programs encourage excessive prescriptions via kickbacks, and even our kids in grade school get hit with Ritalin like its cool. Over medicating? You think?

    June 4, 2011 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. mj

    as a health care practioner I can say from experience seniors are WAY over medicated and paying big bucks to pharmacies, familys (POA etc) can say no to suggestions etc from Dr. Pharm. Do they still need VD calcium etc when they are bedridden. come on give your head a shake!!!!!this goes on all the time!!!!

    June 4, 2011 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Chino12121

    Most drugs should be illegal. Believe in Jesus instead.

    June 4, 2011 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Betty Kelly, M.D.

    6-4-2011 Yes, agree. Seniors for the most part are “overmedicated” with whatever, for whatever reasons. This is a much needed specialty that for the most part has been overlooked, non-existent, or simply put on the “back forty”. It is much akin to drugs in pediatrics vs drugs in adults, etc. They are different. I personally believe it may be more critical in seniors!

    My other concern is what I call “Ventilator-mania”! It is a hospital (ICU) and medical care phenomena that I have recently observed while following an elder neighbor on an unbelievable journey for the neighbor and family. I question this seemingly “viral protocol” that more likely than not creates iatrogenic complications for patients who may not need this, thus prolonging their “recovery”, etc. The goal seemingly is shifted from one facility to the next facility, the family desperately trying to find the competent rehab care for their loved one until all insurance “coverage” is exhausted. Then what!

    Betty Kelly, M.D. (retired pediatrician)

    June 4, 2011 at 13:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Scott

    Part of the problem is reading news articles such as these. Statistics are selectively chosen to make headlines. If people were to read the actual studies instead of relying on others to interpret the results for you, it would help alleviate perception issues between the public and health care workers. Take the time to look up actual medical recommendations and journals instead of reading forums or crap news articles on CNN that just make people panic.

    June 4, 2011 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. iamundermedicated

    Everyone is over medicated. There are too many drugs with not enough ailments.
    We are the drug capital of the world.
    The doctors are the dealers. The pharma companies are the growers and boy is the country hooked !!

    June 4, 2011 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • donna

      Not enough ailments? Are you kidding me?

      June 4, 2011 at 14:05 | Report abuse |
  42. Rick

    I'm recovering from a heart attack (3 weeks ago) and am in pharmacological hell. Cardiologist wants me red. Pulmonary specialist wants me blue. I'm a bright shade of purple and feel on the verge of an out of body experience most of my waking hours. Do you guys not talk with each other?

    Thinking quite seriously about stopping all meds and enjoying a steak dinner (my cholesterol is 110). Remember, none of us are getting out of here alive. Quality of life issues supersede longevity.

    June 4, 2011 at 14:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. KPS

    I am a pharmacist, and I have done consulting work for nursing homes. It is absolutely true that seniors are overmedicated. It is not uncommon to see a patient on 20 to 30 different medications, and when you actually sit down and fully analyze their health conditions, we'll find that they only really need to be on less than half of what they are taking. After we take the patient off the unnecessary meds, almost immediately they will say that they feel better than they have felt in years. What really ticks me off is when I'll go into a nursing home, look at what the patients are taking, and find that EVERY single patient is on the same expensive anti-psychotic, like Abilify, Zyprexa, Seroquel, etc. This is medical corruption, pure and simple. The drug companies send in their drug reps and promise shady "kickbacks" to the doctors if the docs agree to put every patient on their expensive new drug. This used to happen all the time. Regulatory committees have supposedly cracked down on this practice, but it still happens every day. The doctors responsible for this should have their licenses revoked, and the drug companies should be sued for millions. It is just sickening to put every single patient in a facility that may house hundreds of patients on an expensive anti-psychotic that carries awful, potentially permanent side effects, whether they need the drug or not, just so some crooked doctor can get a free vacation at the end of the year.

    June 4, 2011 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lol

      " After we take the patient off the unnecessary meds, almost immediately they will say that they feel better than they have felt in years"

      This isn't a movie like Patch Adams where people just suddenly wake up. And I certainly haven't ever seen a 90 year old severely demented patient who can't even dress themselves or perform other ADLs just suddently wake up and say "wow, I feel AWESOME" after having all their meds removed. In fact, many a times, families who do request the withdrawal of meds in fact end up experiencing the full wrath of a delirious severely demented family member.

      And again, the world of "shady kickbacks" is so 80's and 90's. I have seen a total of maybe 1 or 2 drug reps in the past year, and maybe no more than 4 fliers for dinners regarding new meds. The percentage of physicians who actually actively partake in speaking about meds is so miniscule nowadays.

      So I call BS on your pharmacist degree because you, KPS, as a so-called pharmacist are not clinically trained to assess the effect of the meds that you dish out.

      June 4, 2011 at 14:25 | Report abuse |
  44. willie

    Simply put, YES! Every time I visit a nursing home it breaks my heart to see our elderly all doped up for the primary purpose of ease of care. They drug them to make them do what they are told. Our society just tosses out the old with no regard to their true needs or desires.

    June 4, 2011 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. mrs Bowen

    If you think you are overmedicated, quit taking the meds. If you think your elderly person is overmedicated, bring them home and look after them yourselves. Simple, really.

    June 4, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Don't Judge

      Amen!! Nothing like experiencing it yourself....

      June 8, 2011 at 20:50 | Report abuse |
  46. Klide

    They absolutely are! Just this past weekend I got into a huge argument with my family on this very topic: I'm demonized for smoking weed after work to unwind while my grandparents are taking literally SEVEN different medications for pain and anxiety.
    The Hippocratic Oath is a joke – one family member in particular routinely takes incredibly high doses of xanax and percocets – for which they have had prescriptions for over a decade now... the hypocrisy is mind numbing (and yes: Pun intended). Another example: my best friend's mother casually talks about going to see her Doctor because she's "jonesing;" she twisted her ankle when she was young waiting on tables and somehow has been able to parlay that into a twenty-five year prescription for knock-you-on-your-ass pain meds. .
    And don't dare think my experience is isolated to my family or my region. I've lived in 5 different major metro areas in the last seven years. Frankly, I'm not sure I know anyone over the age of 35-ish who isn't blatantly abusing some pill or another – but think, nay: KNOW, that their behavior is justified because their doctor said it's ok ... and that's just the grim, meat-hook reality of it: Mr. Tambourine Man went and got a degree – it's Doctor Tambourine Man now, and he doesn't give a f*** about you.

    June 4, 2011 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. lol

    I must say, I would love for a patient or patient family to actually talk about these issues to their doctors rather than hide behind the anonymity of the internet and say crap they would never say in person.

    June 4, 2011 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. palintwit

    FACT: Sarah Palin receives more hate mail and death threats than Obama.

    June 4, 2011 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Woody

    Are our kids over medicated with illegal drugs at school ? Drugs have been used since the dawn of man. If you over medicate you can die, If your young or old and not doing drugs you can die ! If so many are doing so many things wrong . Why is there now more people than they use to be ? Cold it be to all the drugs and chemicals in the water ? What all is in that glass of water you just put to your lips .

    June 4, 2011 at 15:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Betty

    My husband has many health issues, diabetes, heart, stroke, now Parkinsons. Every time some symptom shows up, another med is prescribed, but none is ever discontinued. It's loaded up to taking 9 every morning, 8 every evening, and a smattering of others inbetween. He's 80 now and doing great, but I'm more worried about his liver. The doctors simply have no other answers, so it's "Let's try this."

    June 4, 2011 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.