Older Adults Frequently Prescribed Inappropriate Medication


Inappropriately prescribed medications can increase the risk of serious adverse effects and increase the cost of care.

More than 34% of older adults are prescribed at least 1 potentially inappropriate medication, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

As the body ages, the risk of experiencing harmful adverse effects (AEs) from medication increases. In some cases, the risk of potential AEs outweighs the benefits of the medication. High-risk drugs should also be avoided when there is an effective lower risk yet effective treatment available.

Investigators looked at data from the 2011-2015 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to evaluate inappropriate medication prescribing in older adults. The survey is conducted annually by the CDC to examine the prescribing of 33 potentially inappropriate medication classes, such as antidepressants, androgens, estrogens, barbiturates, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and antipsychotics in patients 65 years of age and older.

Of the more than 218 million older adults who were surveyed, 34% had been prescribed at least 1 potentially inappropriate medication, according to the study. On average, those patients were twice as likely to be hospitalized or visit the emergency department. Older patients were also prescribed twice as many drugs and were more likely to visit a primary care physician compared with older adults who were not prescribed potentially inappropriate medications.

"Although efforts to de-prescribe have increased significantly over the last decade, potentially inappropriate medications continue to be prescribed at a high rate among older adults in the United States," said lead investigator David Jacobs, PharmD, PhD, an assistant professor of pharmacy practice in the University at Buffalo School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, in the press release.

According to the study, inappropriate medication prescriptions increased costs for the patient. Patients who received an inappropriate medication spent an average of an additional $458 on health care, which includes an extra $128 on prescription drugs.


Study: 34% of older adults in the US are prescribed potentially inappropriate drugs [News Release] October 23, 2020; Buffalo, NY. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/uab-s3o102220.php. Accessed October 26, 2020.

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