Drug interactions in an elderly population
Prospective assessment of their frequency and seriousness among 56 patients
Objective To assess the nature and the number of potential adverse drug interactions by analysis of outpatient prescriptions for elderly patients, of medications taken during the week before hospitalization in a general surgery department.
Method The study of 56 patients older than 65 years was conducted from November 2002 through February 2003. The outpatient prescriptions corresponding to medications taken during the 7 days before admission were analyzed by a pharmacy resident, who used data-processing tools and databases.
Results Most patients (83%) knew the reason for their prescription. Thirteen (28%) reported using over-the-counter medication. Only 89% of the patients reported complete compliance with the prescription. The average age of the patients was 72.1 ± 6.3 years and the median was 71 years [65-91]; 43% were women and 57% men. The 257 lines of prescriptions analyzed averaged 5.7 ± 2.6 drugs (range: 2-10) per prescription. The average number of possible interactions was 3.1 ± 2.8 per prescription for a total of 89 listed potential interactions. The levels observed were 3 warnings (3%), 37 precautions (42%) and 49 possible adverse interactions (55%). No contraindication was noted. The drugs mentioned most often were benzodiazepines, diuretics, conversion enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin II inhibitors, and beta-blockers. The potential risks most often found were hypotension, depression of the central nervous system, hypoglycemia and acute renal failure. The drug interactions were mainly due to the accumulation of the effects of separate drug classes. Deterioration in renal function was often noted as plasma concentration of the second drug increased.
Discussion This exploratory study shows the reality of the iatrogenic risk for elderly patients. This analysis of outpatient prescriptions is consistent with findings in the literature. Analysis of interactions is conducted on a pairwise basis. It is thus difficult to envisage the consequences of the association of 5 or more drugs in patients with complex illnesses and diminished physiological and metabolic capacity. Patient files kept by the pharmacist could provide information about individual combinations ofthe prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
© 2005 Elsevier Masson SAS. Tous droits réservés.