Overprescribing among older people near end of life in Ireland: Evidence of prevalence and determinants from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA)

PLoS One. 2022 Nov 30;17(11):e0278127. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0278127. eCollection 2022.


International evidence shows that people approaching end of life (EOL) have high prevalence of polypharmacy, including overprescribing. Overprescribing may have adverse side effects for mental and physical health and represents wasteful spending. Little is known about prescribing near EOL in Ireland. We aimed to describe the prevalence of two undesirable outcomes, and to identify factors associated with these outcomes: potentially questionable prescribing, and potentially inadequate prescribing, in the last year of life (LYOL). We used The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing, a biennial nationally representative dataset on people aged 50+ in Ireland. We analysed a sub-sample of participants with high mortality risk and categorised their self-reported medication use as potentially questionable or potentially inadequate based on previous research. We identified mortality through the national death registry (died in <365 days versus not). We used descriptive statistics to quantify prevalence of our outcomes, and we used multivariable logistic regression to identify factors associated with these outcomes. Of 525 observations, 401 (76%) had potentially inadequate and 294 (56%) potentially questionable medications. Of the 401 participants with potentially inadequate medications, 42 were in their LYOL. OF the 294 participants with potentially questionable medications, 26 were in their LYOL. One factor was significantly associated with potentially inadequate medications in LYOL: male (odds ratio (OR) 4.40, p = .004) Three factors were associated with potentially questionable medications in LYOL: male (OR 3.37, p = .002); three or more activities of daily living (ADLs) (OR 3.97, p = .003); and outpatient hospital visits (OR 1.03, p = .02). Thousands of older people die annually in Ireland with potentially inappropriate or questionable prescribing patterns. Gender differences for these outcomes are very large. Further work is needed to identify and reduce overprescribing near EOL in Ireland, particularly among men.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Death
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Humans
  • Inappropriate Prescribing
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Prevalence

Grants and funding

This work was funded by the Health Research Board (HRB) in Ireland as part of project # SDAP/2019/012 (PI: May). For more information see www.pelci.ie. The HRB website can be accessed at https://www.hrb.ie/. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.