Unnecessary drug use in frail older people at hospital discharge

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005 Sep;53(9):1518-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2005.53523.x.


Objectives: To determine the prevalence and predictors of unnecessary drug use at hospital discharge in frail elderly patients.

Design: Cross-sectional.

Setting: Eleven Veterans Affairs Medical Centers.

Participants: Three hundred eighty-four frail older patients from the Geriatric Evaluation and Management Drug Study.

Measurements: Assessment of unnecessary drug use was determined by the consensus of a clinical pharmacist and physician pair applying the Medication Appropriateness Index to each regularly scheduled medication at hospital discharge. Those drugs that received an inappropriate rating for indication, efficacy, or therapeutic duplication were defined as unnecessary.

Results: Forty-four percent of patients had at least one unnecessary drug, with the most common reason being lack of indication. The most commonly prescribed unnecessary drug classes were gastrointestinal, central nervous system, and therapeutic nutrients/minerals. Factors associated (P<.05) with unnecessary drug use included hypertension (adjusted odds ratio (AOR)=0.61, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.38-0.96), multiple prescribers (AOR=3.35, 95% CI=1.16-9.68), and nine or more medications (AOR=2.24, 95% CI=1.25-3.99).

Conclusion: A high prevalence of unnecessary drug use at discharge was found in frail hospitalized elderly patients. Additional studies are needed to identify predictors and prevalence of unnecessary drug use in nonveteran populations so that interventions can be designed to reduce the problem.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Prescriptions / standards*
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Discharge*
  • Polypharmacy*