SLUCare Doctor: Over-medicated Senior Drivers Becoming a Problem

Meet the newest hazard on St. Louis-area roadways

Fred Bodimer
December 04, 2018 - 11:07 am
Senior driver

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) — A local doctor says over-medicated senior drivers is a real problem. 

A new Triple A study finds 50-percent of older people are using 7 or more drugs -- and many don't realize the impact these medications can have on their driving.

SLU Care's Dr. Nirav Patel is the chief medical officer at SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital. He says there's no doubt that this is a challenging problem.

"As you add more and more drugs, there are more and more chances for side-effects," Dr. Patel told KMOX Health Editor Fred Bodimer. "Polypharmacy is what this is called. In geriatric medicine, this is one of the first steps that many physicians go through. They run the medication list of each patient and assess whether they really need this medication or not. If not, (they) stop it!"

Mixing medications can cause blurred vision, fatigue or slow reaction time -- increasing a driver's risk for a crash by up to 300 percent.

Triple A says many seniors don't even realize the impact these drugs are having on their driving. Sometimes, Dr. Patel says physicians don't, either.

"You have to look at the patient, top to bottom as a whole, and not focus on any individual disease component. Going through their medication lists and ensuring they're on the medications they need to be on is a critical component of the care we provide to our patients."

Dr. Patel says he personally is extremely careful when prescribing, say, an antibiotic to a patient, as it might cause a bad reaction when paired with one of the many drugs a patient may be taking. 

Related: SLUCare Doctor Reacts to Life Expectancy Report