[Crushing drugs in geriatric units: an "handicraft" practice with frequent errors which imposed recommendations]

Rev Med Interne. 2012 Oct;33(10):546-51. doi: 10.1016/j.revmed.2012.05.014. Epub 2012 Jun 15.
[Article in French]


Purpose: Swallowing disorders or psycho-behavioural distress frequently interfere on drug administration in elderly inpatients. Crushing drugs is a common although non validated practice. The objective of this first prospective study, performed in all geriatric units of the Rouen university hospital by a multidisciplinary group, was to assess the crushing practice, from the prescription to the administration of the drugs in order to elaborate corrective measures.

Methods: A survey was performed in June 2009 and included 683 inpatients, 65 years and above, in 23 geriatric units. If a patient received drugs after crushing, we recorded the reason for crushing, what drugs were crushed, the galenic presentations and the technique used for preparation and administration.

Results: Two hundred and twenty-one patients (32.3%) (85.5 ± 6.5 years, females 74.2%) received 1528 drugs (6.9 ± 4 per patient) including 966 drugs (63.2%) after crushing (crushed pills or crushed content of opened capsules), mainly in the morning (50.4%). The main reasons for crushing drugs were swallowing disorders and psycho-behavioural distress. Forty-two percent of crushed drugs had a galenic presentation which did not allow crushing. The patient's drugs were crushed together three out of four times and mixed with different vehicules for administration. The material used for crushing (a mortar, 92.6%) was often the same for several patients (59.4%); 83.5% of crushed drugs were immediately administered to the patients, though there were important variations about schedules of administration.

Conclusion: Crushing drugs expose both to iatrogenic hazards and professional risks. Regional and national recommendations were developed in order to correct the errors linked to this practice.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Capsules / administration & dosage
  • Capsules / adverse effects
  • Deglutition Disorders / therapy
  • Dosage Forms
  • Female
  • Geriatrics / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Geriatrics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Iatrogenic Disease / epidemiology
  • Iatrogenic Disease / prevention & control
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control
  • Medication Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Professional Practice* / legislation & jurisprudence


  • Capsules
  • Dosage Forms
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations