, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 31-38
Date: 27 Nov 2012

Ophthalmic Drugs as Part of Polypharmacy in Nursing Home Residents with Glaucoma

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Glaucoma comprises age-related neurodegenerative diseases of retinal ganglion cells, the worldwide prevalence of which is increasing. Local pharmacotherapy is the primary treatment option, especially in the elderly. But this therapeutic approach may include risks for adverse drug effects and drug–drug interactions, of particular importance in frail nursing home resident populations.


The aim of the present study was to investigate anti-glaucoma pharmacotherapy in nursing home residents in the context of multi-morbidity and related systemic co-medication.


Data for 8,685 nursing home residents with 88,695 drug prescriptions were analysed according to diagnosis and local or systemic pharmacotherapy. Data were provided in anonymous form by a German public health insurance company.


The study cohort was characterized by a mean age of 83.6 ± 7.3 years (range: 65–106 years), 21 % of nursing home residents were at least 90 years old and 83.7 % were women. For each nursing home resident, an average of 6.0 ± 3.3 different drugs were registered. A diagnosis of glaucoma was recorded in 520 (6.0 %) nursing home residents; all subjects had co-existing medical conditions. Dementia was a frequent co-morbidity, diagnosed in 51.7 % of nursing home residents with glaucoma. Anti-glaucoma drugs contributed to 0.5 % of all prescriptions and were prescribed to 341 nursing home residents. The most frequently used anti-glaucoma ophthalmics were β-blockers (n = 219), followed by prostaglandin analogues (n = 101) and carbonic anhydrase inhibitors (n = 86). Local anti-glaucoma therapy was co-prescribed with a systemic pharmacotherapy in 338 nursing home residents. An ophthalmic agent was, on average, combined with 6.5 ± 3.2 prescriptions for systemic agents. Thus, 71.9 % of nursing home residents were prescribed ophthalmic β-blockers and a concomitant antihypertensive medication; local and systemic β-blockers were combined in 20.2 % of these patients. Co-treatment with cardiac glycosides or calcium antagonists was found in 13 % of nursing home residents prescribed ophthalmic parasympathomimetics, and in 14 % of those prescribed ophthalmic β-blockers, with the potential for drug–drug interactions to influence cardiac function.


Anti-glaucoma pharmacotherapy in nursing home residents is frequently prescribed in the context of polypharmacy. This may modify the efficacy and safety of local and systemic therapies. Therefore, individualized pharmacotherapy that integrates anti-glaucoma drug therapy into the overall treatment rationale in nursing home residents is necessary. However, to realize this concept, further clinical research in nursing home residents is warranted.