Beyond the prescription: medication monitoring and adverse drug events in older adults

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2011 Aug;59(8):1513-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2011.03500.x. Epub 2011 Jul 28.


Whether a person will suffer harm from a medication or how severe that harm will be is difficult to predict precisely. As a result, many adverse drug events (ADEs) occur in patients in whom it was reasonable to believe that the drug's benefits exceeded its risks. Improving safety and reducing the burden of ADEs in older adults requires addressing this uncertainty by not only focusing on the appropriateness of the initial prescribing decision, but also by detecting and mitigating adverse events once they have started to occur. Such enhanced monitoring of signs, symptoms, and laboratory parameters can determine whether an adverse event has only mild and short-term consequences or major long-term effects on morbidity and mortality. Although current medication monitoring practices are often suboptimal, several strategies can be leveraged to improve the quality and outcomes of monitoring. These strategies include using health information technology to link pharmacy and laboratory data, prospective delineation of risk, and patient outreach and activation, all within a framework of team-based approaches to patient management. Although many of these strategies are theoretically possible now, they are poorly used and will be difficult to implement without a significant restructuring of medical practice. An enhanced focus on medication monitoring will also require a new conceptual framework to re-engineer the prescribing process. With this approach, prescribing quality does not hinge on static attributes of the initial prescribing decision but entails a dynamic process in which the benefits and harms of drugs are actively monitored, managed, and reassessed over time.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control
  • Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting Systems*
  • Aged
  • Angioedema / chemically induced
  • Angioedema / prevention & control
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Antihypertensive Agents / adverse effects
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / adverse effects
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / therapeutic use
  • Drug Monitoring*
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Hip Fractures / etiology
  • Humans
  • Hyperkalemia / chemically induced
  • Hyperkalemia / prevention & control
  • Hypertension / drug therapy
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / chemically induced
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / prevention & control
  • Inappropriate Prescribing / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Prescription Drugs / adverse effects*
  • Risk Assessment


  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Antihypertensive Agents
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Prescription Drugs