Drugs and the elderly: A complex interaction

Therapie. 2023 Jan 20;S0040-5957(23)00020-3. doi: 10.1016/j.therap.2023.01.003. Online ahead of print.


Although it can be difficult to define who should be considered an elderly person, the population aged 65 and over is experiencing the fastest demographic expansion and will represent almost one billion inhabitants of the 2030 World. Drug use increases dramatically with age and the elderly population is, by far, the highest consumer of medicines, up to 10 times more than younger adults. This consumption is in many aspects inappropriate, unjustified or sub-optimal and associated with a huge number of adverse reactions, admissions in emergency units and attributable deaths. A good part of which could be prevented if basic rules of good prescription and ad-hoc guidelines were systematically used. Even if older adults are more likely to present an adverse drug reaction, available data tend to support that the main risk factor of iatrogenesis in the elderly is the number of drugs used. Moreover, it is often irrelevant to transpose to this population the conclusions concerning the benefit-risk balance of drugs assessed in younger adults; similarly, approaches and programs classically used in pharmacovigilance and pharmacoepidemiology should be tailored to this specific population.

Keywords: Adverse drug reactions; Elderly; Pharmacoepidemiology; Prescribing.