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Effects of drug pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic properties, characteristics of medication use, and relevant pharmacological interventions on fall risk in elderly patients

Authors Chen Y, Zhu LL, Zhou Q

Received 8 March 2014

Accepted for publication 23 April 2014

Published 13 June 2014 Volume 2014:10 Pages 437—448

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/TCRM.S63756

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Ying Chen,1 Ling-Ling Zhu,2 Quan Zhou3

1Liaison Office of Geriatric VIP Patients, 2First Geriatric VIP Ward, Division of Nursing, 3Department of Pharmacy, Second Affiliated Hospital, School of Medicine, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, People’s Republic of China

Background: Falls among the elderly are an issue internationally and a public health problem that brings substantial economic and quality-of-life burdens to individuals and society. Falls prevention is an important measure of nursing quality and patient safety. Numerous studies have evaluated the association of medication use with fall risk in elderly patients. However, an up-to-date review has not been available to summarize the multifaceted pharmaceutical concerns in the prevention of medication-related falls.
Materials and methods: Relevant literature was identified by performing searches in PubMed, Web of Science, and the Cochrane Library, covering the period until February 2014. We included studies that described an association between medications and falls, and effects of drug pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic properties, characteristics of medication use, and pharmacological interventions on fall risk in elderly patients. The full text of each included article was critically reviewed, and data interpretation was performed.
Results: Fall-risk-increasing drugs (FRIDs) include central nervous system-acting agents, cough preparations, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-Alzheimer’s agents, antiplatelet agents, calcium antagonists, diuretics, α-blockers, digoxin, hypoglycemic drugs, neurotoxic chemotherapeutic agents, nasal preparations, and antiglaucoma ophthalmic preparations. The degree of medication-related fall risk was dependent on one or some of the following factors: drug pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic properties (eg, elimination half-life, metabolic pathway, genetic polymorphism, risk rating of medications despite belonging to the same therapeutic class) and/or characteristics of medication use (eg, number of medications and drug–drug interactions, dose strength, duration of medication use and time since stopping, medication change, prescribing appropriateness, and medication adherence). Pharmacological interventions, including withdrawal of FRIDs, pharmacist-conducted clinical medication review, and computerized drug alerts, were effective in reducing fall risk.
Conclusion: Based on the literature review, clear practical recommendations for clinicians to prevent falls in the elderly included making a list of FRIDs, establishing a computerized alert system for when to e-prescribe FRIDs, seeking an alternative drug with lower fall risk, withdrawing FRIDs if clinically indicated, taking pertinent cautions when the use of FRIDs cannot be avoidable, paying attention to prescribing appropriateness, simplifying the medication regimen, strengthening pharmacist-conducted clinical medication review, ensuring the label of each FRID dispensed contains a corresponding warning sign, being careful when medication change occurs, enhancing medication adherence, and mandating for periodic reassessment of potential risk associated with the patient's medication regimen. Further studies should be conducted in this area, such as investigating whether medication reconciliation and improving medication adherence could decrease the rate of falls.

Keywords: falls, geriatrics, medication, medication adherence, prescribing, risk, safe medication use


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