Background: Previous applications of the Beers criteria have shown significant prescribing of potentially inappropriate psychotropic agents for the community-dwelling elderly. However, there is limited information at the national level on potentially inappropriate psychotropic use, the characteristics of elderly persons at risk, and the impact of this inappropriate use on health care outcomes.
Objective: This study addressed the prevalence, correlates, and associated outcomes of potentially inappropriate psychotropic use among community-dwelling elderly persons in the United States who were receiving psychotropic medications.
Methods: Data from the 1996 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) were employed to examine the use of psychotropic medications that generally should be avoided in the elderly and those that should be avoided in elderly patients with certain preexisting conditions, as defined by the Beers criteria. The MEPS sampling weights were used to derive national estimates. Cross-sectional data were analyzed by multivariate analyses to examine the correlates and associated health care outcomes (health care utilization, economic, and humanistic) of potentially inappropriate psychotropic use in the elderly.
Results: An estimated 2.30 million community-dwelling elderly persons received potentially inappropriate psychotropic medications in 1996. This represented 7.14% of all community-dwelling elderly persons and 37.86% of all community-dwelling elderly persons using psychotropic agents; 32.94% of those taking psychotropic drugs received agents that were generally inappropriate, and 10.21% received agents that were inappropriate in the presence of specific conditions. The rates of potentially inappropriate psychotropic use in those receiving antidepressant, antianxiety, and sedative/hypnotic agents were 50.93%, 31.84%, and 23.49%, respectively. Multivariate analyses showed that correlates of potentially inappropriate psychotropic use in the elderly were age <75 years and use of multiple psychotropic agents. After controlling for predisposing, enabling, and need factors, no association was found between the use of potentially inappropriate psychotropic medications and differences in health care utilization, economic, or humanistic outcomes.
Conclusions: The study findings suggest that although the use of potentially inappropriate psychotropic medications is common among the community-dwelling elderly who are prescribed psychotropic agents, the unfavorable risk-benefit ratio of these inappropriate medications does not appear to influence broad measures of health care utilization, costs, or quality of life in this population.