Use of inappropriate prescription drugs by older people

Joseph T. Hanlon, Kenneth E. Schmader, Chad Boult, Margaret B. Artz, Cynthia R Gross, Gerda G. Fillenbaum, Christine M. Ruby, Judith Garrard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence and predictors of inappropriate drug prescribing defined by expert national consensus panel drug utilization review criteria for community-dwelling older people. DESIGN: Survey. SETTING: Five adjacent urban and rural counties in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. PARTICIPANTS: A stratified random sample of participants from the fourth (n = 3,234) and seventh (n = 2,508) waves of the Duke Established Populations for Epidemiological Studies of the Elderly. MEASUREMENTS: The prescribing appropriateness for digoxin, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, histamine2 receptor antagonists, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, and antidepressants as determined by explicit criteria (through Health Care Financing Administration expert consensus panel drug utilization review criteria for dosage, duplication, drug-drug interactions and duration, and U.S. and Canadian expert consensus panel criteria for drug-disease interactions). Multivariable analyses, using weighted data adjusted for sampling design, were conducted to assess the association between inappropriate prescribing and demographic, health-status, and access-tohealthcare factors cross-sectionally and longitudinally. RESULTS: We found that 21.0% of the fourth wave and 19.2% of the seventh wave participants who used one or more agents from the eight drug classes had one or more elements identified as inappropriate. The therapeutic classes with the most problems were benzodiazepines and NSAIDs. The most common problems were with drug-disease interactions and duration of use. Longitudinal multivariable analyses found that participants who were white (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 1.67, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.28-2.17), were married (AOR = 1.40, 95% CI = 1.01-1.93), had arthritis (AOR = 1.74, 95% CI = 1.27-2.38), had one or more physical function disabilities (AOR = 1.42, 95% CI = 1.02-1.96), and had inappropriate drugs prescribed at wave 4 (AOR = 6.87, 95% CI = 5.11-9.22) were more likely to have inappropriate prescribing at wave 7. CONCLUSION: These results indicate that inappropriate prescribing is common among community-dwelling older people and persists over time. Longitudinal studies in older people are needed to examine the impact of inappropriate drug prescribing on health-related outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-34
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002


  • Aged
  • Drug interactions
  • Drug utilization
  • Medication errors
  • Prescription drugs


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