BMJ Qual Saf 20:275-281 doi:10.1136/bmjqs.2009.039818
  • Error management

Prevalence and outcomes of use of potentially inappropriate medicines in older people: cohort study stratified by residence in nursing home or in the community

Editor's Choice
  1. T Fahey1,4
  1. 1Division of Clinical & Population Sciences & Education, University of Dundee, Dundee, UK
  2. 2Department of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK
  3. 3Division of Medicine & Therapeutics, University of Dundee, Ninewells Hospital & Medical School, Dundee, UK
  4. 4Department of General Practice and Family Medicine, Division of Population Health Sciences, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Professor T Fahey, Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland, Division of Population Health Sciences, RCSI Medical School, 123 St Stephens Green, Dublin D2, Ireland; tomfahey{at}
  1. Contributors All authors were responsible for initiating the research and writing the study protocol. CM and KB performed the statistical analysis. TF, KB and CM wrote the first draft of the paper and all authors were involved with commenting on subsequent drafts of the paper. CM is the guarantor.

  • Accepted 6 July 2010
  • Published Online First 5 January 2011


Objectives To compare the prevalence of use of potentially inappropriate medicines (PIMs) between older patients living in their own homes versus those living in nursing or residential homes, and to test the association between exposure to PIMs and mortality.

Design Cohort study stratified by place of residence.

Setting Tayside, Scotland.

Participants All people aged between 66 and 99 years who were resident or died in Tayside from 2005 to 2006.

Main outcome measures The exposure variable was PIM use as defined by Beers' Criteria. All cause mortality was the main outcome measure.

Results 70 299 people were enrolled in the cohort of whom 96% were exposed to any medicine and 31% received a PIM. Place of residence was not associated with overall risk of receiving PIMs, adjusted OR 0.94, 95% CI 0.87 to 1.01. Exposure to five of the PIMs (including long-acting benzodiazepines) was significantly higher in nursing homes whereas exposure to five other PIMs (including amitriptyline and NSAIDs) was significantly lower. Exposure to PIMs was similar (20–46%) across all 71 general practices in Tayside and was not associated with increased risk of mortality after adjustment for age, gender and polypharmacy (adjusted OR 0.98, 95% CI 0.92 to 1.05).

Conclusions The authors question the validity of the full list of PIMs as an indicator of safety of medicines in older people because one-third of the population is exposed with little practice variation and no significant impact on mortality. Future studies should focus on management of a shorter list of genuinely high-risk medicines.


  • Funding EastRen Project Grant 141-07, Scottish School of Primary Care, Mackenzie Building, University of Dundee, Kirsty Semple Way, Dundee, DD2 4BF.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Tayside Research Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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