Experts use tools to help older adults and healthcare professionals understand the risks associated with medications like anticholinergics. One of these tools is the AGS Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults. The AGS Beers Criteria details medications with risks that may outweigh their benefits for older adults. The AGS Beers Criteria identifies 52 "high-risk" anticholinergics. Thirty-five of these are included on a list of medications worth avoiding altogether for older people, unless a healthcare professional has a compelling reason for prescribing them on a case-by-case basis.
Recently, a team of researchers decided to study how frequently healthcare providers prescribe potentially inappropriate medications like anticholinergics in light of recommendations like those from the AGS Beers Criteria. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
The researchers used information from the 2006-2015 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS), an annual survey of office-based physician visits. The researchers looked only at visits for people aged 65 or older.
The researchers focused on the 35 anticholinergics that healthcare professionals are advised to avoid for older adults. Among them were antidepressants, medications used to treat overactive bladder and Parkinson's disease , antihistamines, muscle relaxants, and treatments for people who live with muscle spasms.
The researchers learned that between 2006 and 2015, 6.2 percent of older adult visits to a physician resulted in a prescription for a "high-risk" anticholinergic. Older women who had more than two chronic conditions were also the most likely to be prescribed potentially inappropriate anticholinergics. They were most often diagnosed with overactive bladder or urinary incontinence , nerve pain, dizziness, or motion sickness.
Interestingly, the researchers noted that the trend for prescribing these high-risk treatments had fallen by about 2 percent between 2008/2009 and 2014/2015.
The researchers concluded that their findings suggest that future research should be conducted to help create better care practices aimed at reducing the use of high-risk anticholinergic prescriptions for older adults.