Drugs & Aging

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 375–392

Predicting and Preventing Adverse Drug Reactions in the Very Old

  • Louis Merle
  • Marie-Laure Laroche
  • Thierry Dantoine
  • Jean-Pierre Charmes
Leading Article

DOI: 10.2165/00002512-200522050-00003

Cite this article as:
Merle, L., Laroche, ML., Dantoine, T. et al. Drugs Aging (2005) 22: 375. doi:10.2165/00002512-200522050-00003

Abstract

The size of the elderly population has been increasing steadily for several years. Individuals in this age group often have several concomitant diseases that require treatment with multiple medications. These drugs, for various reasons and especially as a consequence of potential accumulation, may be associated with adverse reactions. Of the numerous factors that can favour the occurrence of these adverse drug reactions, the most important are the pathophysiological consequences of aging, particularly as these apply to the very old.

Although absorption of drugs is not usually reduced in the elderly, diffusion, distribution and particularly elimination decline with age. Furthermore, while hepatic metabolic function is fairly normal, renal function is usually markedly depressed in very old individuals, and this can translate into clinical consequences if it is not taken into account. This is why, before administration of any drug in the elderly, evaluation of glomerular filtration rate is essential. Validated estimations such as those obtained from the classical Cockcroft-Gault formula or from more recent methodologies are required.

In addition to reductions in various organ functions, factors connected with very old age such as frailty, falls, abnormal sensitivity to medications and polypathology, all of which tend to be more common in the last years of life, all directly impact on adverse drug reaction occurrence.

Given these characteristics of the elderly population, the best way to reduce the prevalence of adverse drug reactions in this group is to limit drug prescription to essential medications, make sure that use of prescribed agents is clearly explained to the patient, give drugs for as short a period as possible, and periodically re-evaluate all use of drugs in the elderly.

Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Louis Merle
    • 1
  • Marie-Laure Laroche
    • 1
    • 2
  • Thierry Dantoine
    • 2
  • Jean-Pierre Charmes
    • 2
  1. 1.Service de Pharmacologie, Toxicologie, Centre Régional de PharmacovigilanceCHU DupuytrenLimogesFrance
  2. 2.Département de Gérontologie CliniqueCHU DupuytrenLimogesFrance