Update on drug-related problems in the elderly

Joseph T. Hanlon, Catherine I. Lindblad, Emily R. Hajjar, Teresa C McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Background: Although pharmacotherapy for the elderly can treat diseases and improve well-being, its benefits can be compromised by drug-related problems. Objective: This article reviews recent publications concerning drug-related problems in the elderly, as well as articles describing the development of 3 sets of quality indicators for medication use in the elderly. Methods: Relevant articles were identified through a search of MEDLINE (2002-March 2003) for articles on drug-related problems, inappropriate prescribing, and adverse drug events in the elderly. Results: The review included 7 articles published in 2002 and 2003. A study in ambulatory elderly persons reported that ∼5.0% of patients had ≥1 adverse drug event within the previous year. Another study found that ∼20.0% of ambulatory elderly persons used ≥1 inappropriate drug, as defined by drug utilization review (DUR) criteria, with drug-disease interactions and duration of use being the most common drug-related problems. A third study involving elderly individuals in assisted living facilities found that 16.0% used ≥1 inappropriate drug, as defined by the Beers criteria. Another study examined whether inappropriate drug use, as defined by the Beers or DUR criteria, was associated with death or a decline in functional status; it found that only use of drugs defined as inappropriate by DUR criteria (particularly those drugs associated with drug-drug or drug-disease interactions) was associated with a decline in the ability to perform basic self-care. Three studies, 1 from the United States, 1 from the United Kingdom, and 1 from Canada, described consensus development of quality indicators for drug use in the elderly, including drugs to avoid, maximum daily dose, drug duplication, limits on duration of use, drug-drug and drug-disease interactions, need for drug monitoring, underuse of necessary drugs to treat or prevent common problems, and inappropriate drug-administration technique. Conclusions: Drug-related problems are common in elderly patients. Data from recently published studies provide guidance to practitioners and directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-43
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal Geriatric Pharmacotherapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2018 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Adverse drug reactions
  • Elderly
  • Prescribing


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