Effect of interventions to reduce potentially inappropriate use of drugs in nursing homes: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials

BMC Geriatr. 2011 Apr 17;11:16. doi: 10.1186/1471-2318-11-16.


Background: Studies have shown that residents in nursing homes often are exposed to inappropriate medication. Particular concern has been raised about the consumption of psychoactive drugs, which are commonly prescribed for nursing home residents suffering from dementia. This review is an update of a Norwegian systematic review commissioned by the Norwegian Directorate of Health. The purpose of the review was to identify and summarise the effect of interventions aimed at reducing potentially inappropriate use or prescribing of drugs in nursing homes.

Methods: We searched for systematic reviews and randomised controlled trials in the Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, ISI Web of Knowledge, DARE and HTA, with the last update in April 2010. Two of the authors independently screened titles and abstracts for inclusion or exclusion. Data on interventions, participants, comparison intervention, and outcomes were extracted from the included studies. Risk of bias and quality of evidence were assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Table and GRADE, respectively. Outcomes assessed were use of or prescribing of drugs (primary) and the health-related outcomes falls, physical limitation, hospitalisation and mortality (secondary).

Results: Due to heterogeneity in interventions and outcomes, we employed a narrative approach. Twenty randomised controlled trials were included from 1631 evaluated references. Ten studies tested different kinds of educational interventions while seven studies tested medication reviews by pharmacists. Only one study was found for each of the interventions geriatric care teams, early psychiatric intervening or activities for the residents combined with education of health care personnel. Several reviews were identified, but these either concerned elderly in general or did not satisfy all the requirements for systematic reviews.

Conclusions: Interventions using educational outreach, on-site education given alone or as part of an intervention package and pharmacist medication review may under certain circumstances reduce inappropriate drug use, but the evidence is of low quality. Due to poor quality of the evidence, no conclusions may be drawn about the effect of the other three interventions on drug use, or of either intervention on health-related outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Drug Prescriptions / standards
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Homes for the Aged / standards*
  • Humans
  • Inappropriate Prescribing / adverse effects*
  • Nursing Homes / standards*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / adverse effects
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic* / methods


  • Psychotropic Drugs