Interestingly, older patient age also was associated with a lower risk of PIM use. Of patients 85 or older, 42% received at least one PIM, compared with 53% of patients age 65 to 74 (p<0.0001). This suggests that “doctors are aware that the older patients are more frail and vulnerable” and take extra care to avoid prescribing PIMs to people in that age range, Dr. Rothberg says. A diagnosis of stroke or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease also was associated with a lower risk of receiving a PIM—further evidence that “doctors were, to some extent, taking patient factors into account” when prescribing medication.
PIM use among inpatients, as reported in this study, far exceeds the rates published for elders dwelling in the community or in nursing homes, writes Daniel S. Budnitz, MD, MPH, in an editorial accompanying the study.
The wide variation in prescribing practices means each facility must monitor its use of PIMs, just as individual hospitals monitor antibiotic use and resistance, advises Dr. Budnitz, a medical officer in the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He also points out that the evidence that PIMs cause clinically significant adverse events is “weak and based largely on observational studies with inconsistent results.” The drugs in the Beers criteria are “potentially” inappropriate, he says, but some centers have recategorized them as “ ‘always avoid’ medications, ‘rarely acceptable’ medications, and medications which, indeed, have ‘some indications’ for use in older adults.” Thus, some variation among hospitals may be acceptable.
Rather than concentrate on the Beers criteria, hospitalists should focus “on identifying and mitigating the most common and most severe adverse drug events occurring in their hospitals,” such as bleeding from anticoagulants, hypoglycemic events from insulin, and oversedation from opioid analgesics, Dr. Budnitz points out. TH
Norra MacReady is a medical writer based in California.