Almost half of over-65s in England are taking at least five different drugs a day, a Cambridge University study has found.
The figure has risen from just 12 per cent 20 years ago, while the proportion taking no pills at all dropped from around 20 per cent in the late 1990s to just seven per cent today.
Researchers tracked more than 15,000 older people who took part in two long-term health studies which began in the 1990s.
Some of those who took part in the long-term investigation said they were on up to 23 tablets every day.
Researchers expressed concern at the increasing dependence on prescription and over-the-counter medicines - known as 'polypharmacy'.
Studies show polypharmacy can increase the dangers of interactions between different drugs and the risk of frailty in older patients.
It's feared many patients are left on medications long-term without thorough or regular GP reviews.
Volunteers in the study were asked to record their regular medication use, including drugs prescribed by doctors and those they bought over-the-counter, such as painkillers, vitamins and minerals.
The results, in the journal Age and Ageing, showed the proportion taking five or more different drugs a day jumped from 12 per cent to 47 per cent.
But the numbers needing no medicines at all nearly halved.
Heart disease pills, such as statins, accounted for nearly half the medicines taken.
Researchers said increased drug use partly reflected better diagnosis and treatment of potentially deadly conditions.
But they also voiced concerns that some patients may not need all the drugs they are on and were potentially at increased risk of death.
Researcher Dr Carol Brayne said: "We know that polypharmacy is associated with higher mortality and that the evidence for combination therapies on the scale that we have seen them in the older population is not good."
She said the findings highlighted the need for robust evidence on the benefits and harms of taking pills in bulk.
A 2015 study in Spain found those taking six medicines or more a day were nearly three times as likely to die prematurely than those on no drugs at all.
Even taking up to five a day increased the dangers by an estimated 47 per cent, researchers warned.
Via The Telegraph
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