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Overview of Drug Therapy in Older Adults

By

J. Mark Ruscin

, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Pharmacy;


Sunny A. Linnebur

, PharmD, BCPS, BCGP, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Colorado

Last full review/revision Jul 2021| Content last modified Jul 2021
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Prevalence of prescription drug use increases substantially with age. Survey data from 2010–2011 indicate that almost 90% of older adults regularly take at least 1 prescription drug, almost 80% regularly take at least 2 prescription drugs, and 36% take at least 5 prescription drugs (1 Reference Prevalence of prescription drug use increases substantially with age. Survey data from 2010–2011 indicate that almost 90% of older adults regularly take at least 1 prescription drug, almost... read more ). When over-the-counter and dietary supplements are included, these prevalence rates increase substantially. Drug use is greatest among frail older adults, hospitalized patients, and nursing home residents.

Providing safe, effective drug therapy for older adults is challenging for many reasons:

There are 2 main approaches to optimizing drug therapy in older adults:

  • Using appropriate drugs as indicated and to maximize cost-effectiveness

  • Avoiding adverse drug effects by ensuring drugs are dosed correctly, discontinuing unnecessary drugs, and avoiding drug-drug and drug-disease interactions

Reference

  • 1. Qato DM, Wilder J, Schumm LP, et al: Changes in prescription and over-the-counter medication and dietary supplement use among older adults in the United States, 2005 vs 2011. JAMA Intern Med 176(4):473-82, 2016. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.8581

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