The increasing burden of harm resulting from the use of multiple drugs in older patient populations represents a major health problem in developed countries. Approximately 1 in 4 older patients admitted to hospitals are prescribed at least 1 inappropriate medication, and up to 20% of all inpatient deaths are attributable to potentially preventable adverse drug reactions. To minimize this drug-related iatrogenesis, we propose a quality use of medicine framework that comprises 10 sequential steps: 1) ascertain all current medications; 2) identify patients at high risk of or experiencing adverse drug reactions; 3) estimate life expectancy in high-risk patients; 4) define overall care goals in the context of life expectancy; 5) define and confirm current indications for ongoing treatment; 6) determine the time until benefit for disease-modifying medications; 7) estimate the magnitude of benefit versus harm in relation to each medication; 8) review the relative utility of different drugs; 9) identify drugs that may be discontinued; and 10) implement and monitor a drug minimization plan with ongoing reappraisal of drug utility and patient adherence by a single nominated clinician. The framework aims to reduce drug use in older patients to the minimum number of essential drugs, and its utility is demonstrated in reference to a hypothetic case study. Further studies are warranted in validating this framework as a means for assisting clinicians to make more appropriate prescribing decisions in at-risk older patients.
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