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More medicines, less health

Taking multiple medicines may put older Australians at risk of frailty and death, new research has found.

The study, led by Monash University in collaboration with the University of Sydney, found that increases in the Drug Burden Index, which measures exposure to sedatives and anticholinergic medications, were associated with transitions from a robust state to various stages of frailty and a greater risk of mortality.

The research team also found that each additional medication was associated with a 22 per cent greater risk of transitioning from a robust state to death.

Study co-author associate professor Simon Bell, from Monash’s Centre for Medicine Use and Safety, said the findings highlighted the importance of weighing up the risks and benefits of taking multiple medications. “Unlike many other factors that can play a role in frailty, medication use is potentially modifiable,” he said.

Bell added frailty could lead to a “spiral of decline” if the causes remained unaddressed. “The development of frailty puts people at greater risk of additional health problems and worsening disability. This decline can lead to additional medications being prescribed, which perpetuates the spiral,” he explained.

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