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Neurology. 1999 Jan 15;52(2):238-44.

Tacrine use in nursing homes: implications for prescribing new cholinesterase inhibitors. SAGE Study Group. Systematic Assessment of Geriatric Drug Use via Epidemiology.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.



To describe the use of tacrine in nursing home residents using data from a clinically based resident assessment instrument used by all US nursing homes.


Data were from the Systematic Assessment of Geriatric Drug Use via Epidemiology (SAGE) database, a population-based data set with information on 329,520 patients admitted to all Medicare/Medicaid certified nursing homes in four US states (Maine, Mississippi, New York, and South Dakota) from 1992 through 1995. The SAGE database combines information from the Minimum Data Set (MDS) and the On-Line Survey and Certification Automated Record. We identified all residents receiving tacrine and up to five control residents per case matched on state, date of tacrine use, cognitive function, and dementia diagnosis.


A total of 1,640 (0.5%) nursing home residents received tacrine at least once. Only 38% of these residents had a diagnosis of AD documented on the MDS; regardless of dementia diagnosis, 25% had severe cognitive impairment, 35% were severely dependent in activities of daily living (ADL), and 17% had both severe cognitive and ADL impairment. Only 8% achieved a therapeutic dose of at least 120 mg/d. After adjusting for confounding variables, wandering and being physically abusive were the strongest predictors of tacrine use.


A minority of nursing home residents received tacrine. Of those who did, a significant proportion were unlikely to benefit from its use because of their level of cognitive and ADL impairment, or because low doses were used. As new medications become available for dementia, MDS data can be used by nursing homes to monitor the use of these therapies.

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