New research suggests most aged care medication is going unchecked.

A study by the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) has shown just one in five older Australians receives a government-funded medication review after entering an aged care facility.

During a medication review, a pharmacist is meant to check through all medicines prescribed and make recommendations for improvements.

Lead researcher, Dr Janet Sluggett from the University of South Australia said the findings point to potential dangers that demand attention.

“Residents are taking an average of 10 different medicines each day and this often includes medicines that need close monitoring such as antipsychotics, opioids, insulin and blood thinners,” Dr Sluggett said.

“These medicines can have beneficial effects for some people. But we’ve seen a sharp increase in the use of these medicines that when used incorrectly, can cause side effects such as drowsiness, confusion, falls and hospital visits.”

Guidelines recommend medication schedules are reviewed on entry to an aged care facility.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has highlighted regular medication reviews as national priority area for people taking high-risk medicines such as antipsychotics.

Dr Sluggett says there have been some changes since the study was conducted, but more needs to be done.

“People who receive a medication review can now get an extra two follow-up visits from a pharmacist and a variety of doctors can refer a resident for the service, in addition to the GP,” Dr Sluggett said.

“But we still urgently need strategies to address medication safety issues for all of those in aged care who aren’t getting their schedules reviewed.”

Overall the medication review service is under-used. The study revealed just 6 per cent of all facilities in Australia reviewed more than half of all new resident’s medication programs.

Older people who may be concerned about their medication are being encouraged to ask their doctor about a review.

The study is accessible here.