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CNS Drugs. 2002;16(2):99-109.

Prescribing of psychotropics in the elderly: why is it so often inappropriate?

Author information

1
College of Pharmacy, South Dakota State University, Rapid City, South Dakota 57701, USA. jane_mort@sdstate.edu

Abstract

Psychotropic medications are an important treatment approach to mental health disorders; such disorders are common in the elderly population. Elderly patients are more likely to experience adverse effects from these agents than their younger counterparts due to age-related changes in pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic parameters. Because of these factors, inappropriate use of psychotropic medications in elderly patients has become a focus of concern. In general an agent is considered inappropriate if the risk associated with its use exceeds its benefit. Implicit and explicit criteria for inappropriate use of medications in the elderly have been created and include psychotropic agents. These criteria vary in their make-up but the explicit criteria tend to agree that amitriptyline, doxepin, and benzodiazepines that have long half-lives are not appropriate. Although explicit inappropriate medication criteria have been in existence since 1991, elderly patients continue to receive inappropriate psychotropic medications. A wide array of factors may be responsible for this practice. Provider-related causes include deficits in knowledge, confusion due to the lack of a consensus on the inappropriate psychotropic criteria, difficulties in addressing an inappropriate medication started by a previous provider, multiple prescribers and pharmacies involved in the care of a patient, negative perceptions regarding aging, and cost issues. Patients may contribute to the problem by demanding an inappropriate medication. Finally, the healthcare setting may inadvertently contribute to inappropriate prescribing by such policies as restrictive formularies or lack of reimbursement for pharmacists' clinical services. Successful approaches to optimising prescribing have been either educational or administrative. Educational approaches (e.g. one-on-one sessions, academic detailing) seek to influence decision making, while administrative approaches attempt to enforce policies to curtail the undesired practice. The US Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987, which improved psychotropic medication use in long-term care, is an excellent example of administrative intervention. More research specifically focused on the causes of inappropriate psychotropic medication use and methods to avoid this practice is needed before targeted recommendations can be made.

PMID:
11825101
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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