More than one in four elderly patients was given potentially hazardous medication during 2007. That is the conclusion of a study by Ute Amann and her co-authors in the current issue of the Deutsches Ärzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2012; 109: 69-75).
Giving certain medical drug substances to over-65-year-olds can increase the risk of undesired drug effects, and for this reason experts describe them as "potentially inappropriate medications" (PIMs).
This study used information from a large database to attempt to estimate the risk of PIM for older people according to age, sex, and drug substance. The researchers used the data of 447 592 men and 356 808 women aged 65 or over to assess how often PIMs were prescribed per patient.
Women had more PIM prescriptions than men. The potentially hazardous drugs that were most often prescribed were amitriptyline, acetyldigoxin, tetrazepam, and oxazepam. Overall, 8.8% of all patients in the database received four or more prescriptions for the same or an equivalent drug during the study period.