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Number of drug prescriptions rising

In the last ten years the number of prescriptions handed out to people aged 60 and over has almost doubled and is higher than for any other age group, figures have shown.

In 2007, each person aged 60 and over received 42.4 prescription items on average, compared with 22.3 each in 1997.

Meanwhile, those aged 16 to 59 received 9.5 items each on average in 2007, and children under 16 received 3.9.

The data, from the NHS Information Centre, showed that the number of prescriptions written for six health areas, including the cardiovascular system, respiratory system and central nervous system, rose 6.7% between 2006 and 2007. In 2006, 561 million prescriptions were written for these areas, rising to 599 million in 2007.

Overall, there was a 5.9% rise in prescriptions, to 796 million items in 2007. This represents a 59.2% rise on figures for 1997.

Ellen Mason, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "These estimated figures appear to show an increased trend in prescribing drugs to the elderly, especially for the prevention and treatment of heart and circulatory disease, reflecting an increased focus on care for the elderly.

"There could be several factors at play, including an increasingly elderly population, longer life expectancy, a wider range of drugs used to treat heart and circulatory disease and greater evidence about the safety and benefits of drugs such as statins."

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