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Drugs Aging. 2008;25(4):343-55.

Drug-drug interactions in a geriatric outpatient cohort: prevalence and relevance.

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Department of Geriatric Medicine, Slotervaart Hospital, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.



The prevalence of drug-drug interactions (DDIs) in a geriatric population may be high because of polypharmacy. However, wide variance in the clinical relevance of these interactions has been shown.


To explore whether adverse drug reactions (ADRs) as a result of DDIs can be identified by clinical evaluation, to describe the prevalence of ADRs and diminished drug effectiveness as a result of DDIs and to verify whether the top ten most frequent potential DDIs known to public pharmacies are of primary importance in geriatric outpatients in the Netherlands.


All adverse events classified by the Naranjo algorithm as being a possible ADR and drug combinations resulting in diminished drug effectiveness were identified prospectively in 807 geriatric outpatients (mean age 81 years) at their first visit. The setting was a diagnostic day clinic. The Medication Appropriateness Index (MAI) and Beers criteria were used to evaluate drug use and identify possible DDIs. The ten most frequent potential interactions, according to a 1997 national database of public pharmacies ('Top Ten') in the Netherlands, and possible adverse events as a result of other interactions, were described. The effects of changes in medication regimen were recorded by checking the medical records.


In 300 patients (44.5% of the 674 patients taking more than one drug), 398 potential DDIs were identified. In 172 (25.5%) of patients taking more than one drug, drug combinations were identified that were responsible for at least one ADR or which possibly resulted in reduced effectiveness of therapy. Eighty-four of the 158 possible ADRs resulting from enhanced action of drugs forming combinations listed in the 'Top Ten' were seen in 73 patients. Only four DDIs resulting in less effective therapy that involved drug combinations in the 'Top Ten' were identified. Changes in drug regimens pertaining to possible interactions were proposed or put into effect in 111 of the 172 (65%) patients with possible DDIs. Sixty-one (55%) of these patients returned for follow-up. Of these, 49 (80%) were shown to have improved after changes were made to their medication regimen.


In this study, nearly half of the geriatric outpatients attending a diagnostic day clinic who were taking more than one drug were candidates for DDIs. One-quarter of these patients were found to have possible adverse events or diminished treatment effectiveness that may have been at least partly caused by these DDIs. These potential interactions can be identified through clinical evaluation. In the majority of patients (99 of 172) the potential interactions resulting in possible ADRs or diminished effectiveness were not present in the 'Top Ten' interactions described by a national database of public pharmacies, a finding that emphasizes that the particular characteristics of geriatric patients (e.g. frequent psychiatric co-morbidities) need to be considered when evaluating their drug use. At least 7% of all patients taking more than one drug, and 80% of those with possible drug interactions whose drug regimen was adjusted, benefited from changes made to their drug regimens.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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