Frailty and Unintended Risks of Medications

  • David B. Hogan
  • Colleen J. MaxwellEmail author
Epidemiology of Aging (K Lapane, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Epidemiology of Aging
  2. Topical Collection on Epidemiology of Aging


Purpose of Review

In this narrative review, we focus on aspects of the complicated relationship between frailty and medications that we feel would be of particular interest to researchers and health care practitioners.

Recent Findings

Frailty and polypharmacy (≥5 medications) are inter-related with evidence of a bidirectional potentially casual relationship. Medication review and withdrawal of potentially inappropriate medications is frequently advised for the management of frailty. Changes in the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of drugs with frailty are felt to parallel those seen with aging though possibly more pronounced. While both frailty and polypharmacy are associated with adverse outcomes, recent research suggests that relative measures of associated risk may be blunted among older adults with frailty compared to non-frail older adults.


Research on drug therapy in later life should include a consideration of frailty and how changes in frailty status may affect the balance between benefit and risk with pharmacotherapy.


Frailty Medications Older adults Adverse drug reactions Health outcomes 


Funding Information

Dr. Maxwell and Dr. Hogan report grants from Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and grants from the Canadian Frailty Network during the conduct of the study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights

All reported studies/experiments with human or animal subjects performed by the authors have been previously published and complied with all applicable ethical standards (including the Helsinki Declaration and its amendments, institutional/national research committee standards, and international/ national/ institutional guidelines).


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine, Cumming School of MedicineUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Schools of Pharmacy and Public Health and Health SystemsUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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