Potentially inappropriate medication use by elderly persons in U.S. Health Maintenance Organizations, 2000-2001

UMMS Affiliation

Meyers Primary Care Institute; Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Age Distribution; Aged; Aged, 80 and over; Cross-Sectional Studies; Drug Utilization; Female; Health Maintenance Organizations; Humans; Male; Medication Errors; Pharmaceutical Preparations; Polypharmacy; Prevalence; Sex Distribution; United States


Health Services Research | Primary Care


OBJECTIVES: To determine rates of potentially inappropriate medication use in elderly persons in managed care plans in the United States in 2000-2001.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study using automated medication-dispensing data.

SETTING: Ten geographically distributed health maintenance organizations (HMOs).

PARTICIPANTS: One hundred fifty-seven thousand five hundred seventeen members aged 65 years and older enrolled in one of the HMOs.

MEASUREMENTS: Prevalence of use of 33 potentially inappropriate medications from January 1, 2000 through June 30, 2001.

RESULTS: In 2000-2001, 28.8% (95% confidence interval=28.6-29.1) of elderly individuals received at least one of 33 potentially inappropriate medications. This rate ranged from 23.0% to 36.5% across the 10 HMOs. Approximately 5% of elderly patients received at least one of the 11 medications classified by an expert panel as "always avoid," 13% received at least one of the eight medications that would rarely be considered appropriate, and 17% received at least one of the 14 medications that have some indications but are often misused. Overall, rates of use of these medications were greater in women (32.4%) than in men (24.2%). At least 1% of elderly members received belladonna alkaloids (2.3%), dicyclomine (1.1%), or hyoscyamine (1.2%), each of which multiple expert panels have classified as always inappropriate in patients aged 65 years and older. Seven percent of elderly members received propoxyphene, an analgesic medication considered rarely appropriate in the elderly and a drug that has a long history of limited efficacy and potential for toxicity.

CONCLUSION: Recent rates of potentially inappropriate medication use by elderly HMO members were at least as great as in a 1996 national sample. This study highlights the need to understand more fully the rationale behind the continued use of these medications.

DOI of Published Version



J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005 Feb;53(2):227-32. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

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