Application of the STOPP/START criteria: a systematic review of the prevalence of potentially inappropriate prescribing in older adults, and evidence of clinical, humanistic and economic impact

J Clin Pharm Ther. 2013 Oct;38(5):360-72. doi: 10.1111/jcpt.12059. Epub 2013 Apr 2.


What is known and objective: Potentially inappropriate prescribing (PIP) has significant clinical, humanistic and economic impacts. Identifying PIP in older adults may reduce their burden of adverse drug events. Tools with explicit criteria are being developed to screen for PIP in this population. These tools vary in their ability to identify PIP in specific care settings and jurisdictions due to such factors as local prescribing practices and formularies. One promising set of screening tools are the STOPP (Screening Tool of Older Person's potentially inappropriate Prescriptions) and START (Screening Tool of Alert doctors to the Right Treatment) criteria. We conducted a systematic review of research studies that describe the application of the STOPP/START criteria and examined the evidence of the impact of STOPP/START on clinical, humanistic and economic outcomes in older adults.

Methods: We performed a systematic review of studies from relevant biomedical databases and grey literature sources published from January 2007 to January 2012. We searched citation and reference lists and contacted content experts to identify additional studies. Two authors independently selected studies using a predefined protocol. We did not restrict selection to particular study designs; however, non-English studies were excluded during the selection process. Independent extraction of articles by two authors used predefined data fields. For randomized controlled trials and observational studies comparing STOPP/START to other explicit criteria, we assessed risk of bias using an adapted tool.

Results and discussion: We included 13 studies: a single randomized controlled trial and 12 observational studies. We performed a descriptive analysis as heterogeneity of study populations, interventions and study design precluded meta-analysis. All observational studies reported the prevalence of PIP; however, the application of the criteria was not consistent across all studies. Seven of the observational studies compared STOPP/START with other explicit criteria. The STOPP/START criteria were reported to be more sensitive than the more-frequently-cited Beers criteria in six studies, but less sensitive than a set of criteria developed in Australia. The STOPP criteria identified more medications associated with adverse drug events than the 2002 version of the Beers criteria. Patients with PIP, as identified by STOPP, had an 85% increased risk of adverse drug events in one study (OR = 1·85, 95% CI: 1·51-2·26; P < 0·001). There was limited evidence that the application of STOPP/START criteria optimized prescribing. Research involving the application of STOPP/START on the impact on the quality of life was not found. The direct costs of PIP were documented in three studies from Ireland, but more extensive analyses on the economic impact or studies from other jurisdictions were not found.

What is new and conclusion: The STOPP/START criteria have been used to review the medication profiles of community-dwelling, acute care and long-term care older patients in Europe, Asia and North America. Observational studies have reported the prevalence and predictors of PIP. The STOPP/START criteria appear to be more sensitive than the 2002 version of the Beers criteria. Limited evidence was found related to the clinical and economic impact of the STOPP/START criteria.

Keywords: criteria; inappropriate prescribing; prescribing omissions; screening tool; screening tool of older person's potentially inappropriate prescriptions; screening tool to alert doctors to the right treatment.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Inappropriate Prescribing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic