Study Finds that Most Older Adults are Aware of Medication Risks


JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Geriatrics experts know that certain medications may have risks for older adults that outweigh their benefits, especially when safer alternatives are available. Medications that could be “potentially inappropriate” for older adults are included on recommendation lists that your healthcare provider can consult, such as the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) Beers Criteria or the STOPP-START list.

However, despite these recommendations, 25 percent of older adults take at least one potentially inappropriate medication every year. Taking these medications can increase the risk of being hospitalized due to a medication-related problem. Although 70 percent of older adults are willing to stop taking certain medications, healthcare providers continue to prescribe some potentially inappropriate medicines to older adults.

Researchers from the Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie in Montréal, Canada, designed a survey to learn about older adults’ awareness of drug-related health risks. They conducted the survey over the telephone with 2,665 participants, aged 65 or older.

The researchers learned that:

  • 88 percent of the participants had used at least one prescription medication within the last 12 months.
  • 42 percent of the participants used medicines considered potentially inappropriate for older adults, including:
    • Sedative and hypnotic medications, such as tranquilizers and sleeping pills
    • Glyburide (a type of medicine prescribed for people with diabetes)
    • Proton pump inhibitors (medicines prescribed for acid reflux and several other conditions)
  • 65 percent of participants knew that some prescriptions could be potentially harmful.
  • 42 percent of participants had discussed stopping one or more prescribed medications with their healthcare provider.
  • Both adults younger than 80 and older adults who were more aware of medication risks were more likely to have conversations with healthcare providers about stopping prescriptions.
  • Just 7 percent of participants knew what the term “de-prescribing” meant. De-prescribing is the medical term for your healthcare provider taking you off a prescribed medication to improve your health or reduce the risk for adverse side effects.
  • About half of the survey participants researched information about medications on their own.

The researchers suggested that the more information people have about potential risks associated with their medications, the more likely they may be to discuss reducing potentially inappropriate medications.

This summary is from “Older Adults’ Awareness of Deprescribing: A Population-based Survey.” It appears online ahead of print in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study authors are Justin P. Turner, PhD, and Cara Tannenbaum, MD, MSc, of the Centre de Recherche, Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada.