It is clearly established that older people suffer a high rate of disease related to medication. Probably the major reason for this is that older patients are prescribed more drugs than younger people and the rate of prescribing appears to be increasing all the time. In the UK, data are currently collected on all prescriptions dispensed and this shows that older patients (aged over 65 years) receive 35-40% of all drugs prescribed. Between 1977 and 1988, prescription items increased by 17% overall, but by 52% in people over 65 years. compared to only 1% in adults under 65. Prescription rates are rising for a number of reasons, including new advances in therapeutics, a rapidly enlarging older population, moves to treat older patients more effectively (i.e. a less agist policy), rising patient expectations and defensive medical practice.