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Keywords:

  • cognitive function;
  • dementia;
  • potentially inappropriate medication;
  • anticholinergic

Objectives

To determine which older adults tend to receive potentially inappropriate medications (PIMs), how this may differ according to cognitive status, and how the trajectories of PIM use change over time.

Design

Ten-year longitudinal cohort study.

Setting

Three clinical sites in the United States.

Participants

One thousand four hundred eighty-four community-dwelling women aged 75 and older.

Measurements

At follow-up, cognitive status was ascertained and classified as normal, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or dementia. Beers 2003 criteria and other literature were used to identify PIMs from detailed medication inventory performed at three time points. Anticholinergic load was measured using the Anticholinergic Cognitive Burden Scale (ACB), which assigns medications a value from 0 to 3 depending on anticholinergic properties.

Results

At baseline, 23.9% of women were taking at least one PIM and the mean ± SD ACB score was 1.41 ± 1.69. The most frequently reported PIMs were anticholinergics (15.2%), benzodiazepines (8.6%), and antispasmodics (8.0%). Over 10 years, PIM use increased for women with dementia (24.9–33.1%; P = .02) but remained fairly constant for women with MCI (23.9–23.0%; P = .84) and normal cognitive status (22.2–19.8%; P = .17). Mean ACB score increased significantly (P < .001) over time for all groups (dementia: 1.28–2.05; MCI: 0.98–1.66; normal: 0.99–1.48).

Conclusion

PIM use and anticholinergic load in a community-dwelling population of older women was high, especially in women who later developed dementia. Future guidelines should limit PIM use and seek safer alternatives.