• Primary Care;
  • Elderly;
  • Pharmaco-vigilance;
  • Benzodiazepines;
  • co-proxamol



To examine trends in UK primary care prescribing of medications potentially inappropriate for older people in the context of published international data.


Analysis of routinely collected anonymised computerised patient records in 131 UK general practices (approximately 162 000 registered patients annually aged ≥65 years) providing data to the DIN-LINK database between 1994 and 2003. In each year, we identified patients prescribed drugs classified by the 2003 Beers criteria as potentially inappropriate for older people.


The level of potentially inappropriate prescribing remained steady over time: in 2003 32.2% of patients received any Beers drug, and 20.5% received a drug categorised as potentially “high risk”; percentages had been 32.9% and 21.4% respectively in 1994. In 2003, co-proxamol (93.7/1000 patients), benzodiazepines (52.4/1000 patients) and amitriptyline (45.4/1000, mainly at low doses) were the most frequently prescribed potentially inappropriate drugs. If co-proxamol (now being withdrawn) and low-dose amitriptyline (appropriate for neuropathic pain) are excluded, 24.8% of patients still received a potentially inappropriate prescription in 2003.


Prescription of potentially inappropriate medication, particularly benzodiazepines, to older people remains at a high level in the UK. Levels were higher than those seen in published data from the Netherlands, however the low rate of co-proxamol prescribing in the Netherlands explains much, but not all, of the difference. Future international comparisons, based on more careful delineation of the criteria, may play a valuable role in pharmaco-vigilance and can identify areas where regulation of prescribing may reduce risks to older patients. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.