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Keywords:

  • Beers List;
  • medications;
  • Beers Criteria;
  • drugs;
  • older adults;
  • polypharmacy

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Objectives
  4. Intent of Criteria
  5. Methods
  6. Panel Selection
  7. Literature Search
  8. Development Process
  9. Results
  10. Discussion
  11. Panel members and affiliations
  12. Acknowledgments
  13. References

The 2015 American Geriatrics Society (AGS) Beers Criteria are presented. Like the 2012 AGS Beers Criteria, they include lists of potentially inappropriate medications to be avoided in older adults. New to the criteria are lists of select drugs that should be avoided or have their dose adjusted based on the individual's kidney function and select drug–drug interactions documented to be associated with harms in older adults. The specific aim was to have a 13-member interdisciplinary panel of experts in geriatric care and pharmacotherapy update the 2012 AGS Beers Criteria using a modified Delphi method to systematically review and grade the evidence and reach a consensus on each existing and new criterion. The process followed an evidence-based approach using Institute of Medicine standards. The 2015 AGS Beers Criteria are applicable to all older adults with the exclusion of those in palliative and hospice care. Careful application of the criteria by health professionals, consumers, payors, and health systems should lead to closer monitoring of drug use in older adults.

The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication (PIM) Use in Older Adults is an explicit list of PIMs best avoided in older adults in general and in those with certain diseases or syndromes, prescribed at reduced dosage or with caution or carefully monitored. Beers Criteria PIMs have been found to be associated with poor health outcomes, including confusion, falls, and mortality.[1, 2] Avoiding PIMs in older adults is one strategy to decrease the risk of adverse events. Interventions using explicit criteria have been found to be an important component of strategies for reducing inappropriate medication usage.[3-5]

The AGS Beers Criteria for PIM Use in Older Adults are one of the most frequently consulted sources about the safety of prescribing medications for older adults. The AGS Beers Criteria are used widely in geriatric clinical care, education, and research and in development of quality indicators. In 2011, the AGS assumed the responsibility of updating and maintaining the Beers Criteria and, in 2012, released the first update of the criteria since 2003. The AGS has made a commitment to update the criteria regularly. The changes in the 2015 update are not as extensive as those of the previous update, but in addition to updating existing criteria, two major components have been added: 1) drugs for which dose adjustment is required based on kidney function and 2) drug–drug interactions. Neither of these new additions is intended to be comprehensive, because such lists would be too extensive. An interdisciplinary expert panel focused on those drugs and drug–drug interactions for which there is evidence in older adults that they are at risk of serious harm if the dose is not adjusted or the drug interaction is overlooked.

Objectives

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Objectives
  4. Intent of Criteria
  5. Methods
  6. Panel Selection
  7. Literature Search
  8. Development Process
  9. Results
  10. Discussion
  11. Panel members and affiliations
  12. Acknowledgments
  13. References

The specific aim was to update the 2012 AGS Beers Criteria using a comprehensive, systematic review and grading of the evidence on drug-related problems and adverse drug events in older adults. The strategies to achieve this aim were to:

  • Incorporate new evidence on currently listed PIMs and evidence from new medications or conditions not addressed in the 2012 update.
  • Incorporate two new areas of evidence on drug–drug interactions and dose adjustments based on kidney function for select medications.
  • Grade the strength and quality of each PIM statement based on the level of evidence and strength of recommendation.
  • Convene an interdisciplinary panel of 13 experts in geriatric care and pharmacotherapy who would apply a modified Delphi method to the systematic review and grading to reach consensus on the updated 2015 AGS Beers Criteria.
  • Incorporate needed exceptions in the criteria as the panel deemed clinically appropriate. These exceptions would be designed to make the criteria more individualized to clinical practice and be more relevant across settings of care.

Intent of Criteria

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Objectives
  4. Intent of Criteria
  5. Methods
  6. Panel Selection
  7. Literature Search
  8. Development Process
  9. Results
  10. Discussion
  11. Panel members and affiliations
  12. Acknowledgments
  13. References

The primary target audience for the AGS Beers Criteria is practicing clinicians. The criteria are intended for use in all ambulatory, acute, and institutionalized settings of care for populations aged 65 and older in the United States, with the exception of hospice and palliative care. Consumers, researchers, pharmacy benefits managers, regulators, and policymakers also widely use the AGS Beers Criteria. The intentions of the criteria are to: improve medication selection; educate clinicians and patients; reduce adverse drug events; and serve as a tool for evaluating quality of care, cost, and patterns of drug use of older adults.

The goal of the 2015 AGS Beers Criteria continues to be improving the care of older adults by reducing their exposure to PIMs. This is accomplished by using the criteria as an educational tool and quality measure—two uses that are not always in agreement. These criteria are not meant to be applied in a punitive manner. Prescribing decisions are not always clear-cut, and clinicians must consider multiple factors, including discontinuation of medications no longer indicated. Quality measures must be clearly defined, easily applied, and measured with limited information and thus, although useful, cannot perfectly distinguish appropriate from inappropriate care. The panel considered and vigorously discussed both roles during deliberations. The panel's review of evidence at times identified subgroups of individuals who should be exempt from a given criterion or to whom a specific criterion should apply. Such a criterion may not be easily applied as a quality measure, particularly when such subgroups cannot be easily identified through structured and readily accessible electronic health data. In these cases, the panel felt that a criterion should not be expanded to include all adults aged 65 and older when only certain subgroups have an adverse balance of benefits versus harms for the medication or conversely may be appropriate candidates for a medication that is otherwise problematic.

Despite past and current efforts to translate the criteria into practice, some controversy and myths about their use in practice and policy continue to prevail. The panel addressed these concerns and myths by writing a companion piece to the updated criteria to address the best way for patients, providers, and health systems to use (and not use) the 2015 AGS Beers Criteria. Alternative suggestions to medications included in the current Use of High-Risk Medications in the Elderly and Potentially Harmful Drug-Disease Interactions in the Elderly quality measures are presented in another companion paper. Both papers will be published online in this journal.

Methods

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Objectives
  4. Intent of Criteria
  5. Methods
  6. Panel Selection
  7. Literature Search
  8. Development Process
  9. Results
  10. Discussion
  11. Panel members and affiliations
  12. Acknowledgments
  13. References

For this new update, the AGS employed a well-tested framework that has long been used for development of clinical practice guidelines.[6, 7] Specifically, the framework involved the appointment of a 13-member interdisciplinary expert panel with relevant clinical expertise and experience and an understanding of how the criteria have been previously used. This framework also involved a development process that included a systematic literature review and evaluation of the evidence base by the expert panel. Finally, the Institute of Medicine's 2011 report on developing practice guidelines, which included a period for public comments, guided the framework. These three framework principles are described in greater detail below.

Panel Selection

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Objectives
  4. Intent of Criteria
  5. Methods
  6. Panel Selection
  7. Literature Search
  8. Development Process
  9. Results
  10. Discussion
  11. Panel members and affiliations
  12. Acknowledgments
  13. References

A panel with expertise in geriatric medicine, nursing, pharmacy practice, research, and quality measures was convened comprising members of the previous panel and new members. Other factors that influenced selection of panel members were the desire to have interdisciplinary representation, a range of medical expertise, and representation from different practice settings (e.g., long-term care, ambulatory care, geriatric mental health, palliative care and hospice). In addition to the 13-member panel, representatives from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, National Committee for Quality Assurance, and Pharmacy Quality Alliance were invited to serve as ex-officio members.

Each expert panel member completed a disclosure form at the beginning of the guideline process that was shared with the entire panel at the start of each panel meeting and call. Panel members who disclosed affiliations or financial interests with commercial entities are listed in the disclosures section of this article. Panel members were asked to recuse themselves from discussions if they had a potential conflict of interest.

Literature Search

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Objectives
  4. Intent of Criteria
  5. Methods
  6. Panel Selection
  7. Literature Search
  8. Development Process
  9. Results
  10. Discussion
  11. Panel members and affiliations
  12. Acknowledgments
  13. References

The literature from August 1, 2011 (the end of the previous panel's search) to July 1, 2014, was searched to identify published systematic reviews, meta-analyses, randomized controlled trials, and observational studies that were relevant to the project. The initial literature search was conducted on PubMed and the Cochrane Library. The drugs, drug classes, and conditions included in the 2012 criteria were used as initial search terms and were generally focused on “adverse drug events” and “adverse drug reactions.” Individual drugs, drug classes, and conditions were searched individually and in combination. Search filters included human subjects, English language, and aged 65 and older. Case reports, case series, editorials, and letters were excluded. Clinical reviews were included for initial screening as potential background information and for reference list review. The initial searches identified 20,748 citations, of which 6,719 were selected for preliminary abstract review. The panel co-chairs reviewed 3,387 citations and abstracts, of which 2,199 were excluded for not meeting the study purpose or not containing primary data. At the time of the panel's face-to-face meeting, the co-chairs had selected 1,188 unduplicated citations for the full panel review. Subsequent searches (defined by panel workgroups) were conducted until December 15, 2014; some of these searches included studies published in the prior 10 years. The AGS also gave its members and members of the public a chance to submit evidence they felt the panel should consider. Any evidence submitted had to be evidence based and published in a peer-reviewed journal. Panel members reviewed abstracts, and evidence tables were developed for 342 studies, including 60 systematic reviews and meta-analyses, 49 randomized controlled trials, and 233 observational and other types of publications.

Development Process

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Objectives
  4. Intent of Criteria
  5. Methods
  6. Panel Selection
  7. Literature Search
  8. Development Process
  9. Results
  10. Discussion
  11. Panel members and affiliations
  12. Acknowledgments
  13. References

Since the previous update, the AGS had created a group to monitor the literature and to advise the 2015 expert panel of any articles relevant to the 2012 criteria and respond accordingly. Two members of the expert panel (MS, SL) led this group, which was composed of members of the AGS Clinical Practice Committee and other expert members of AGS. The 2015 expert panel convened for a 2-day in-person meeting on July 28–29, 2014, to review the groups' findings and the results of the literature search. Panel discussions were used to define terms and to address questions of consistency, inclusion of infrequently used drugs, strategies for evaluating the evidence, consolidation or expansion of individual criterion, and development of renal dosage and drug–drug interaction tables. The panel then split into four groups, with each assigned a specific set of criteria for evaluation. Groups were assigned as closely as possible according to specific area of clinical expertise (e.g., cardiovascular, central nervous system). Groups reviewed the literature search, selected citations relevant to their assigned criteria, and determined which citations they wanted to see the full-text article for and which should be abstracted into an evidence table. The groups then presented their findings to the full panel for comment and consensus. After the meeting, each group participated in a series of conference calls to continue the literature selection process and resolve any questions.

An independent researcher led the effort to prepare evidence tables and relied on the assistance of one other researcher for the initial drafts of evidence tables. The evidence tables included a summary of the study, as well as a quality rating and rating of the risk of bias for selected articles. The quality rating system was based on the Cochrane Risk of Bias[8] and Jadad scoring system.[9] The ratings were based on six critical elements: evidence of balanced allocation, allocation concealment, blinded outcome assessment, completeness of outcome data, selective outcome reporting, and other sources of bias. Following the Cochrane approach, each article was assigned a quality score (1–6 points) and a risk-of-bias rating. Low risk of bias was indicated by a low risk of bias in all six domains, unclear risk of bias was indicated by an unclear rating on one or more domains (others low) or a high risk of bias on one domain (others low or unclear), and high risk of bias was indicated by a high risk of bias on two or more domains. The independent researcher reviewed all evidence tables and proposed quality and risk-of-bias ratings before they were distributed to the expert panel to use for the Grades of Recommendation Assessment, Development, and Evaluation[10] (GRADE) rating process.

Each panelist independently rated the quality of evidence and strength of recommendation for each criterion using the American College of Physicians' Guideline Grading System[11] (Table 1), which is based on the GRADE scheme developed previously. AGS staff compiled the panelist ratings for each group and returned them to that group, which then reached consensus in a conference call. Additional literature was obtained and included as needed. When group consensus could not be reached, the full panel reviewed the ratings and worked through any differences until consensus was reached. The panel judged each criterion as being a strong or weak recommendation on the basis of the quality of supporting evidence, the frequency and severity of harms, and the availability of better treatment alternatives. For some criteria, the panel provided a “strong” recommendation, even though the quality of evidence was low or moderate, when the potential for harm was substantial and safer or more-effective alternatives were available.

Table 1. Designations of Quality of Evidence and Strength of Recommendations
  1. Adapted from[11].

Quality of Evidence
HighEvidence includes consistent results from well-designed, well-conducted studies in representative populations that directly assess effects on health outcomes (≥2 consistent, higher-quality randomized controlled trials or multiple, consistent observational studies with no significant methodological flaws showing large effects)
ModerateEvidence is sufficient to determine risks of adverse outcomes, but the number, quality, size, or consistency of included studies; generalizability to routine practice; or indirect nature of the evidence on health outcomes (≥1 higher-quality trial with >100 participants; ≥2 higher-quality trials with some inconsistency; ≥2 consistent, lower-quality trials; or multiple, consistent observational studies with no significant methodological flaws showing at least moderate effects) limits the strength of the evidence
LowEvidence is insufficient to assess harms or risks in health outcomes because of limited number or power of studies, large and unexplained inconsistency between higher-quality studies, important flaws in study design or conduct, gaps in the chain of evidence, or lack of information on important health outcomes
Strength of Recommendation
StrongBenefits clearly outweigh harms, adverse events, and risks, or harms, adverse events, and risks clearly outweigh benefits
WeakBenefits may not outweigh harms, adverse events, and risks
InsufficientEvidence inadequate to determine net harms, adverse events, and risks

After consensus was reached within the expert panel, the updated guidelines were circulated for peer review to relevant organizations and societies and posted to the AGS website for public comment. Organizations that participated in peer review are listed in the Acknowledgments section of this article. The panel reviewed and addressed all comments.

Results

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Objectives
  4. Intent of Criteria
  5. Methods
  6. Panel Selection
  7. Literature Search
  8. Development Process
  9. Results
  10. Discussion
  11. Panel members and affiliations
  12. Acknowledgments
  13. References

The panel's recommendations are presented in Tables 2-7. References, as evidence tables, supporting the recommendations appear in the online appendix posted on the AGS website (www.americangeriatrics.org). Consistent with the 2012 AGS Beers Criteria, Tables 2-4 list PIMS for older adults outside the palliative care and hospice setting, including medications to avoid for many or most older adults (Table 2); medications for older adults with specific diseases or syndromes to avoid (Table 3); and medications to be used with caution (Table 4). New to the AGS Beers Criteria are potentially clinically important non-anti-infective drug–drug interactions (Table 5) and non-anti-infective medications to avoid or the dosage of which should be adjusted based on the individual's kidney function (Table 6). Tables 8-10 document the differences between the 2012 and 2015 AGS Beers Criteria.

Table 2. 2015 American Geriatrics Society Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults
Organ System, Therapeutic Category, DrugsRationaleRecommendationQuality of EvidenceStrength of Recommendation
  1. The primary target audience is practicing clinicians. The intentions of the criteria are to improve the selection of prescription drugs by clinicians and patients; evaluate patterns of drug use within populations; educate clinicians and patients on proper drug usage; and evaluate health-outcome, quality-of-care, cost, and utilization data.

  2. CNS = central nervous system; NSAIDs = nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Anticholinergics

First-generation antihistamines

Brompheniramine

Carbinoxamine

Chlorpheniramine

Clemastine

Cyproheptadine

Dexbrompheniramine

DexchlorpheniramineDimenhydrinate

Diphenhydramine (oral)

Doxylamine

Hydroxyzine

Meclizine

Promethazine

Triprolidine

Highly anticholinergic; clearance reduced with advanced age, and tolerance develops when used as hypnotic; risk of confusion, dry mouth, constipation, and other anticholinergic effects or toxicity

Use of diphenhydramine in situations such as acute treatment of severe allergic reaction may be appropriate

AvoidModerateStrong

Antiparkinsonian agents

Benztropine (oral)

Trihexyphenidyl

Not recommended for prevention of extrapyramidal symptoms with antipsychotics; more-effective agents available for treatment of Parkinson diseaseAvoidModerateStrong

Antispasmodics

Atropine (excludes ophthalmic)

Belladonna alkaloids

Clidinium-Chlordiazepoxide

Dicyclomine

Hyoscyamine

Propantheline

Scopolamine

Highly anticholinergic, uncertain effectivenessAvoidModerateStrong
Antithrombotics
Dipyridamole, oral short-acting (does not apply to the extended-release combination with aspirin)May cause orthostatic hypotension; more effective alternatives available; intravenous form acceptable for use in cardiac stress testingAvoidModerateStrong
TiclopidineSafer, effective alternatives availableAvoidModerateStrong
Anti-infective
NitrofurantoinPotential for pulmonary toxicity, hepatoxicity, and peripheral neuropathy, especially with long-term use; safer alternatives availableAvoid in individuals with creatinine clearance <30 mL/min or for long-term suppression of bacteriaLowStrong
Cardiovascular

Peripheral alpha-1 blockers

Doxazosin

Prazosin

Terazosin

High risk of orthostatic hypotension; not recommended as routine treatment for hypertension; alternative agents have superior risk–benefit profileAvoid use as an antihypertensiveModerateStrong

Central alpha blockers

Clonidine

Guanabenz

Guanfacine

Methyldopa

Reserpine (>0.1 mg/d)

High risk of adverse CNS effects; may cause bradycardia and orthostatic hypotension; not recommended as routine treatment for hypertension

Avoid clonidine as first-line antihypertensive

Avoid others as listed

LowStrong
DisopyramideDisopyramide is a potent negative inotrope and therefore may induce heart failure in older adults; strongly anticholinergic; other antiarrhythmic drugs preferredAvoidLowStrong
DronedaroneWorse outcomes have been reported in patients taking dronedarone who have permanent atrial fibrillation or severe or recently decompensated heart failureAvoid in individuals with permanent atrial fibrillation or severe or recently decompensated heart failureHighStrong
DigoxinUse in atrial fibrillation: should not be used as a first-line agent in atrial fibrillation, because more-effective alternatives exist and it may be associated with increased mortalityAvoid as first-line therapy for atrial fibrillationAtrial fibrillation: moderateAtrial fibrillation: strong
 Use in heart failure: questionable effects on risk of hospitalization and may be associated with increased mortality in older adults with heart failure; in heart failure, higher dosages not associated with additional benefit and may increase risk of toxicityAvoid as first-line therapy for heart failureHeart failure: lowHeart failure: strong
 Decreased renal clearance of digoxin may lead to increased risk of toxic effects; further dose reduction may be necessary in patients with Stage 4 or 5 chronic kidney diseaseIf used for atrial fibrillation or heart failure, avoid dosages >0.125 mg/dDosage >0.125 mg/d: moderateDosage >0.125 mg/d: strong
Nifedipine, immediate releasePotential for hypotension; risk of precipitating myocardial ischemiaAvoidHighStrong
AmiodaroneAmiodarone is effective for maintaining sinus rhythm but has greater toxicities than other antiarrhythmics used in atrial fibrillation; it may be reasonable first-line therapy in patients with concomitant heart failure or substantial left ventricular hypertrophy if rhythm control is preferred over rate controlAvoid amiodarone as first-line therapy for atrial fibrillation unless patient has heart failure or substantial left ventricular hypertrophyHighStrong
Central nervous system

Antidepressants, alone or in combination

Amitriptyline

Amoxapine

Clomipramine

Desipramine

Doxepin >6 mg/d

Imipramine

Nortriptyline

Paroxetine

Protriptyline

Trimipramine

Highly anticholinergic, sedating, and cause orthostatic hypotension; safety profile of low-dose doxepin (≤6 mg/d) comparable with that of placeboAvoidHighStrong
Antipsychotics, first- (conventional) and second- (atypical) generation

Increased risk of cerebrovascular accident (stroke) and greater rate of cognitive decline and mortality in persons with dementia

Avoid antipsychotics for behavioral problems of dementia or delirium unless nonpharmacological options (e.g., behavioral interventions) have failed or are not possible and the older adult is threatening substantial harm to self or others

Avoid, except for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or short-term use as antiemetic during chemotherapyModerateStrong

Barbiturates

Amobarbital

Butabarbital

Butalbital

Mephobarbital

Pentobarbital

Phenobarbital

Secobarbital

High rate of physical dependence, tolerance to sleep benefits, greater risk of overdose at low dosagesAvoidHighStrong

Benzodiazepines

Short- and intermediate- acting

Alprazolam

Estazolam

Lorazepam

Oxazepam

Temazepam

Triazolam

Older adults have increased sensitivity to benzodiazepines and decreased metabolism of long-acting agents; in general, all benzodiazepines increase risk of cognitive impairment, delirium, falls, fractures, and motor vehicle crashes in older adultsAvoidModerateStrong

Long-acting

Clorazepate

Chlordiazepoxide (alone or in combination with amitriptyline or clidinium)

Clonazepam

Diazepam

Flurazepam

Quazepam

May be appropriate for seizure disorders, rapid eye movement sleep disorders, benzodiazepine withdrawal, ethanol withdrawal, severe generalized anxiety disorder, and periprocedural anesthesia   
MeprobamateHigh rate of physical dependence; very sedatingAvoidModerateStrong

Nonbenzodiazepine, benzodiazepine receptor agonist hypnotics

Eszopiclone

Zolpidem

Zaleplon

Benzodiazepine-receptor agonists have adverse events similar to those of benzodiazepines in older adults (e.g., delirium, falls, fractures);increased emergency department visits and hospitalizations; motor vehicle crashes; minimal improvement in sleep latency and durationAvoidModerateStrong

Ergoloid mesylates (dehydrogenated ergot alkaloids)

Isoxsuprine

Lack of efficacyAvoidHighStrong
Endocrine

Androgens

Methyltestosterone

Testosterone

Potential for cardiac problems; contraindicated in men with prostate cancerAvoid unless indicated for confirmed hypogonadism with clinical symptomsModerateWeak
Desiccated thyroidConcerns about cardiac effects; safer alternatives availableAvoidLowStrong
Estrogens with or without progestins

Evidence of carcinogenic potential (breast and endometrium); lack of cardioprotective effect and cognitive protection in older women

Evidence indicates that vaginal estrogens for the treatment of vaginal dryness are safe and effective; women with a history of breast cancer who do not respond to nonhormonal therapies are advised to discuss the risk and benefits of low-dose vaginal estrogen (dosages of estradiol <25 μg twice weekly) with their healthcare provider

Avoid oral and topical patch

Vaginal cream or tablets: acceptable to use low-dose intravaginal estrogen for management of dyspareunia, lower urinary tract infections, and other vaginal symptoms

Oral and patch: high

Vaginal cream or tablets: moderate

Oral and patch: strong

Topical vaginal cream or tablets: weak

Growth hormoneImpact on body composition is small and associated with edema, arthralgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, gynecomastia, impaired fasting glucoseAvoid, except as hormone replacement after pituitary gland removalHighStrong
Insulin, sliding scaleHigher risk of hypoglycemia without improvement in hyperglycemia management regardless of care setting; refers to sole use of short- or rapid-acting insulins to manage or avoid hyperglycemia in absence of basal or long-acting insulin; does not apply to titration of basal insulin or use of additional short- or rapid-acting insulin in conjunction with scheduled insulin (i.e., correction insulin)AvoidModerateStrong
MegestrolMinimal effect on weight; increases risk of thrombotic events and possibly death in older adultsAvoidModerateStrong

Sulfonylureas, long-duration

Chlorpropamide

Chlorpropamide: prolonged half-life in older adults; can cause prolonged hypoglycemia; causes syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretionAvoidHighStrong
GlyburideGlyburide: higher risk of severe prolonged hypoglycemia in older adults   
Gastrointestinal
MetoclopramideCan cause extrapyramidal effects, including tardive dyskinesia; risk may be greater in frail older adultsAvoid, unless for gastroparesisModerateStrong
Mineral oil, given orallyPotential for aspiration and adverse effects; safer alternatives availableAvoidModerateStrong
Proton-pump inhibitorsRisk of Clostridium difficile infection and bone loss and fracturesAvoid scheduled use for >8 weeks unless for high-risk patients (e.g., oral corticosteroids or chronic NSAID use), erosive esophagitis, Barrett's esophagitis, pathological hypersecretory condition, or demonstrated need for maintenance treatment (e.g., due to failure of drug discontinuation trial or H2 blockers)HighStrong
Pain medications
MeperidineNot effective oral analgesic in dosages commonly used; may have higher risk of neurotoxicity, including delirium, than other opioids; safer alternatives availableAvoid, especially in individuals with chronic kidney diseaseModerateStrong

Non-cyclooxygenase-selective NSAIDs, oral:

Aspirin >325 mg/d Diclofenac

Diflunisal

Etodolac

Fenoprofen

Ibuprofen

Ketoprofen

Meclofenamate

Mefenamic acid

Meloxicam

Nabumetone

Naproxen

Oxaprozin

Piroxicam

Sulindac

Tolmetin

Increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding or peptic ulcer disease in high-risk groups, including those aged >75 or taking oral or parenteral corticosteroids, anticoagulants, or antiplatelet agents; use of proton-pump inhibitor or misoprostol reduces but does not eliminate risk. Upper gastrointestinal ulcers, gross bleeding, or perforation caused by NSAIDs occur in approximately 1% of patients treated for 3–6 months and in ~2–4% of patients treated for 1 year; these trends continue with longer duration of useAvoid chronic use, unless other alternatives are not effective and patient can take gastroprotective agent (proton-pump inhibitor or misoprostol)ModerateStrong
IndomethacinIndomethacin is more likely than other NSAIDs to have adverse CNS effects. Of all the NSAIDs, indomethacin has the most adverse effects.AvoidModerateStrong
Ketorolac, includes parenteralIncreased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, peptic ulcer disease, and acute kidney injury in older adults   
PentazocineOpioid analgesic that causes CNS adverse effects, including confusion and hallucinations, more commonly than other opioid analgesic drugs; is also a mixed agonist and antagonist; safer alternatives availableAvoidLowStrong

Skeletal muscle relaxants

Carisoprodol

Chlorzoxazone

Cyclobenzaprine

Metaxalone

Methocarbamol

Orphenadrine

Most muscle relaxants poorly tolerated by older adults because some have anticholinergic adverse effects, sedation, increased risk of fractures; effectiveness at dosages tolerated by older adults questionableAvoidModerateStrong
Genitourinary
DesmopressinHigh risk of hyponatremia; safer alternative treatmentsAvoid for treatment of nocturia or nocturnal polyuriaModerateStrong
Table 3. 2015 American Geriatrics Society Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults Due to Drug–Disease or Drug–Syndrome Interactions That May Exacerbate the Disease or Syndrome
Disease or SyndromeDrug(s)RationaleRecommendationQuality of EvidenceStrength of Recommendation
  1. The primary target audience is the practicing clinician. The intentions of the criteria are to improve selection of prescription drugs by clinicians and patients; evaluate patterns of drug use within populations; educate clinicians and patients on proper drug usage; and evaluate health-outcome, quality-of-care, cost, and utilization data.

  2. a

    Excludes inhaled and topical forms. Oral and parenteral corticosteroids may be required for conditions such as exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease but should be prescribed in the lowest effective dose and for the shortest possible duration.

  3. CCB = calcium channel blocker; AChEI = acetylcholinesterase inhibitor; CNS = central nervous system; COX = cyclooxygenase; NSAID = nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug; SSRIs = selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors; TCA = tricyclic antidepressant.

Cardiovascular
Heart failure

NSAIDs and COX-2 inhibitors

Nondihydropyridine CCBs (diltiazem, verapamil)—avoid only for heart failure with reduced ejection fraction

Thiazolidinediones (pioglitazone, rosiglitazone)

Cilostazol

Dronedarone (severe or recently decompensated heart failure)

 

 

Potential to promote fluid retention and exacerbate heart failureAvoid

NSAIDs: moderate

 

CCBs: moderate

 

Thiazolidinediones: high

 

Cilostazol: low

 

Dronedarone: high

Strong
Syncope

AChEIs

Peripheral alpha-1 blockers

Doxazosin

Prazosin

Terazosin

Tertiary TCAs

Chlorpromazine

Thioridazine

Olanzapine

Increases risk of orthostatic hypotension or bradycardiaAvoid

Peripheral alpha-1 blockers: high

TCAs, AChEIs, antipsychotics: moderate

AChEIs, TCAs: strong

Peripheral alpha-1 blockers, antipsychotics: weak

Central nervous system
Chronic seizures or epilepsy

Bupropion

Chlorpromazine

Clozapine

Maprotiline

Olanzapine

Thioridazine

Thiothixene

Tramadol

Lowers seizure threshold; may be acceptable in individuals with well-controlled seizures in whom alternative agents have not been effectiveAvoidLowStrong
Delirium

Anticholinergics (see Table 7 for full list)

Antipsychotics Benzodiazepines

Chlorpromazine

Corticosteroidsa

H2-receptor antagonists

Cimetidine

Famotidine

Nizatidine

Ranitidine

Meperidine

Sedative hypnotics

Avoid in older adults with or at high risk of delirium because of the potential of inducing or worsening delirium

Avoid antipsychotics for behavioral problems of dementia or delirium unless nonpharmacological options (e.g., behavioral interventions) have failed or are not possible and the older adult is threatening substantial harm to self or others Antipsychotics are associated with greater risk of cerebrovascular accident (stroke) and mortality in persons with dementia

AvoidModerateStrong
Dementia or cognitive impairment

Anticholinergics (see Table 7 for full list)

Benzodiazepines

H2-receptor antagonists

Nonbenzodiazepine, benzodiazepine receptor agonist hypnotics

Eszopiclone

Zolpidem

Zaleplon

Antipsychotics, chronic and as-needed use

Avoid because of adverse CNS effects

 

Avoid antipsychotics for behavioral problems of dementia or delirium unless nonpharmacological options (e.g., behavioral interventions) have failed or are not possible and the older adult is threatening substantial harm to self or others. Antipsychotics are associated with greater risk of cerebrovascular accident (stroke) and mortality in persons with dementia

AvoidModerateStrong
History of falls or fractures

Anticonvulsants

Antipsychotics Benzodiazepines Nonbenzodiazepine, benzodiazepine receptor agonist hypnotics

Eszopiclone

Zaleplon

Zolpidem

TCAs

SSRIs

Opioids

May cause ataxia, impaired psychomotor function, syncope, additional falls; shorter-acting benzodiazepines are not safer than long-acting ones

 

If one of the drugs must be used, consider reducing use of other CNS-active medications that increase risk of falls and fractures (i.e., anticonvulsants, opioid-receptor agonists, antipsychotics, antidepressants, benzodiazepine-receptor agonists, other sedatives and hypnotics) and implement other strategies to reduce fall risk

Avoid unless safer alternatives are not available; avoid anticonvulsants except for seizure and mood disorders

 

Opioids: avoid, excludes pain management due to recent fractures or joint replacement

High

 

Opioids: moderate

Strong

 

Opioids: strong

Insomnia

Oral decongestants

Pseudoephedrine

Phenylephrine

Stimulants

Amphetamine

Armodafinil

Methylphenidate

Modafinil

Theobromines

Theophylline

Caffeine

CNS stimulant effectsAvoidModerateStrong
Parkinson disease

All antipsychotics (except aripiprazole, quetiapine, clozapine)

Antiemetics

Metoclopramide

Prochlorperazine

Promethazine

Dopamine-receptor antagonists with potential to worsen parkinsonian symptoms

Quetiapine, aripiprazole, clozapine appear to be less likely to precipitate worsening of Parkinson disease

AvoidModerateStrong
Gastrointestinal
History of gastric or duodenal ulcers

Aspirin (>325 mg/d)

Non-COX-2 selective NSAIDs

May exacerbate existing ulcers or cause new or additional ulcersAvoid unless other alternatives are not effective and patient can take gastroprotective agent (i.e., proton-pump inhibitor or misoprostol)ModerateStrong
Kidney and urinary tract     
Chronic kidney disease Stages IV or less (creatinine clearance <30 mL/min)NSAIDs (non-COX and COX-selective, oral and parenteral)May increase risk of acute kidney injury and further decline of renal functionAvoidModerateStrong
Urinary incontinence (all types) in women

Estrogen oral and transdermal (excludes intravaginal estrogen)

Peripheral alpha-1 blockers

Doxazosin

Prazosin

Terazosin

Aggravation of incontinenceAvoid in women

Estrogen: high

Peripheral alpha-1 blockers: moderate

Estrogen: strong

Peripheral alpha-1 blockers: strong

Lower urinary tract symptoms, benign prostatic hyperplasiaStrongly anticholinergic drugs, except antimuscarinics for urinary incontinence (see Table 7 for complete list)May decrease urinary flow and cause urinary retentionAvoid in menModerateStrong
Table 4. 2015 American Geriatrics Society Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medications to Be Used with Caution in Older Adults
Drug(s)RationaleRecommendationQuality of EvidenceStrength of Recommendation
  1. The primary target audience is the practicing clinician. The intentions of the criteria are to improve selection of prescription drugs by clinicians and patients; evaluate patterns of drug use within populations; educate clinicians and patients on proper drug usage; and evaluate health-outcome, quality-of-care, cost, and utilization data.

  2. CrCl = creatinine clearance; SNRIs = serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors; SSRIs = selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors; TCAs = tricyclic antidepressants.

Aspirin for primary prevention of cardiac eventsLack of evidence of benefit versus risk in adults aged ≥80Use with caution in adults aged ≥80LowStrong
DabigatranIncreased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding compared with warfarin and reported rates with other target-specific oral anticoagulants in adults aged ≥75; lack of evidence of efficacy and safety in individuals with CrCl <30 mL/minUse with caution in in adults aged ≥75 and in patients with CrCl <30 mL/minModerateStrong
PrasugrelIncreased risk of bleeding in older adults; benefit in highest-risk older adults (e.g., those with prior myocardial infarction or diabetes mellitus) may offset riskUse with caution in adults aged ≥75ModerateWeak

Antipsychotics

Diuretics

Carbamazepine

Carboplatin

Cyclophosphamide

Cisplatin

Mirtazapine

Oxcarbazepine

SNRIs

SSRIs

TCAs

Vincristine

May exacerbate or cause syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion or hyponatremia; monitor sodium level closely when starting or changing dosages in older adultsUse with cautionModerateStrong
VasodilatorsMay exacerbate episodes of syncope in individuals with history of syncopeUse with cautionModerateWeak
Table 5. 2015 American Geriatrics Society Beers Criteria for Potentially Clinically Important Non-Anti-infective Drug–Drug Interactions That Should Be Avoided in Older Adults
Object Drug and ClassInteracting Drug and ClassRisk RationaleRecommendationQuality of EvidenceStrength of Recommendation
  1. a

    Central nervous system (CNS)-active drugs: antipsychotics; benzodiazepines; nonbenzodiazepine, benzodiazepine receptor agonist hypnotics; tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs); selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs); and opioids.

  2. ACEI = angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor; NSAID = nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

ACEIsAmiloride or triamtereneIncreased risk of HyperkalemiaAvoid routine use; reserve for patients with demonstrated hypokalemia while taking an ACEIModerateStrong
AnticholinergicAnticholinergicIncreased risk of Cognitive declineAvoid, minimize number of anticholinergic drugs (Table 7)ModerateStrong
Antidepressants (i.e., TCAs and SSRIs)≥2 other CNS-active drugsaIncreased risk of FallsAvoid total of ≥3 CNS-active drugsa; minimize number of CNS-active drugsModerateStrong
Antipsychotics≥2 other CNS-active drugsaIncreased risk of FallsAvoid total of ≥3 CNS-active drugsa; minimize number of CNS-active drugsModerateStrong
Benzodiazepines and nonbenzodiazepine, benzodiazepine receptor agonist hypnotics≥2 other CNS-active drugsaIncreased risk of Falls and fracturesAvoid total of ≥3 CNS-active drugsa; minimize number of CNS-active drugsHighStrong
Corticosteroids, oral or parenteralNSAIDsIncreased risk of Peptic ulcer disease or gastrointestinal bleedingAvoid; if not possible, provide gastrointestinal protectionModerateStrong
LithiumACEIsIncreased risk of Lithium toxicityAvoid, monitor lithium concentrationsModerateStrong
LithiumLoop diureticsIncreased risk of Lithium toxicityAvoid, monitor lithium concentrationsModerateStrong
Opioid receptor agonist analgesics≥2 other CNS-active drugsaIncreased risk of FallsAvoid total of ≥3 CNS-active drugsa; minimize number of CNS drugsHighStrong
Peripheral Alpha-1 blockersLoop diureticsIncreased risk of Urinary incontinence in older womenAvoid in older women, unless conditions warrant both drugsModerateStrong
TheophyllineCimetidineIncreased risk of Theophylline toxicityAvoidModerateStrong
WarfarinAmiodaroneIncreased risk of BleedingAvoid when possible; monitor international normalized ratio closelyModerateStrong
WarfarinNSAIDsIncreased risk of BleedingAvoid when possible; if used together, monitor for bleeding closelyHighStrong
Table 6. 2015 American Geriatrics Society Beers Criteria for Non-Anti-Infective Medications That Should Be Avoided or Have Their Dosage Reduced with Varying Levels of Kidney Function in Older Adults
Medication Class and MedicationCreatinine Clearance, mL/min, at Which Action RequiredRationaleRecommendationQuality of EvidenceStrength of Recommendation
  1. CNS = central nervous system.

Cardiovascular or hemostasis
Amiloride<30Increased potassium, and decreased sodiumAvoidModerateStrong
Apixaban<25Increased risk of bleedingAvoidModerateStrong
Dabigatran<30Increased risk of bleedingAvoidModerateStrong
Edoxaban30–50Increased risk of bleedingReduce doseModerateStrong
 <30 or >95 Avoid  
Enoxaparin<30Increased risk of bleedingReduce doseModerateStrong
Fondaparinux<30Increased risk of bleedingAvoidModerateStrong
Rivaroxaban30–50Increased risk of bleedingReduce doseModerateStrong
 <30 Avoid  
Spironolactone<30Increased potassiumAvoidModerateStrong
Triamterene<30Increased potassium, and decreased sodiumAvoidModerateStrong
Central nervous system and analgesics
Duloxetine<30Increased Gastrointestinal adverse effects (nausea, diarrhea)AvoidModerateWeak
Gabapentin<60CNS adverse effectsReduce doseModerateStrong
Levetiracetam≤80CNS adverse effectsReduce doseModerateStrong
Pregabalin<60CNS adverse effectsReduce doseModerateStrong
Tramadol<30CNS adverse effects

Immediate release: reduce dose

Extended release: avoid

LowWeak
Gastrointestinal
Cimetidine<50Mental status changesReduce doseModerateStrong
Famotidine<50Mental status changesReduce doseModerateStrong
Nizatidine<50Mental status changesReduce doseModerateStrong
Ranitidine<50Mental status changesReduce doseModerateStrong
Hyperuricemia
Colchicine<30Gastrointestinal, neuromuscular, bone marrow toxicityReduce dose; monitor for adverse effectsModerateStrong
Probenecid<30Loss of effectivenessAvoidModerateStrong
Table 7. Drugs with Strong Anticholinergic Properties

Antihistamines

Brompheniramine

Carbinoxamine

Chlorpheniramine

Clemastine

Cyproheptadine

DexbrompheniramineDexchlorpheniramine

Dimenhydrinate

Diphenhydramine (oral)

Doxylamine

Hydroxyzine

Meclizine

Triprolidine

Antiparkinsonian agents

Benztropine

Trihexyphenidyl

Skeletal muscle relaxants

Cyclobenzaprine

Orphenadrine

Antidepressants

Amitriptyline

Amoxapine

Clomipramine

Desipramine

Doxepin (>6 mg)

Imipramine

Nortriptyline

Paroxetine

Protriptyline

Trimipramine

Antipsychotics

Chlorpromazine

Clozapine

Loxapine

Olanzapine

Perphenazine

Thioridazine

Trifluoperazine

Antiarrhythmic

Disopyramide

Antimuscarinics (urinary incontinence)

Darifenacin

Fesoterodine

Flavoxate

Oxybutynin

Solifenacin

Tolterodine

Trospium

Antispasmodics

Atropine (excludes ophthalmic)

Belladonna alkaloids

Clidinium-chlordiazepoxide

Dicyclomine

Homatropine (excludes ophthalmic)

Hyoscyamine

Propantheline

Scopolamine (excludes ophthalmic)

Antiemetic

Prochlorperazine

Promethazine

Table 8. Medications Moved to Another Category or Modified Since 2012 Beers Criteria
Independent of Diagnoses or Condition (Table 2)Considering Disease or Syndrome Interactions (Table 3)
Nitrofurantoin—recommendation and rationale modifiedHeart failure—rationale and quality of evidence modified
Dronedarone—recommendation and rationale modifiedChronic seizures or epilepsy—quality of evidence modified
Digoxin—recommendation and rationale modifiedDelirium—recommendation and rationale modified
Benzodiazepines—recommendation modifiedDementia or cognitive impairment—recommendation and rationale modified; new drugs added
Nonbenzodiazepine, benzodiazepine receptor agonist hypnotics—recommendation modifiedHistory of falls or fractures—recommendation and rationale modified; new drugs added
Meperidine—recommendation modifiedParkinson disease—recommendation and rationale modified
Indomethacin and ketorolac, includes parenteral—rationale modifiedChronic kidney disease Stage IV or less (creatinine clearance <30 mL/min)—triamterene moved to Tables 5 and 6
Antipsychotics—recommendation and rationale modifiedInsomnia—new drugs added
Estrogen—recommendation modified 
Insulin, sliding scale—rationale modified 
Table 9. Medications Removed Since 2012 Beers Criteria
Independent of Diagnoses or Condition (Table 2)Considering Disease and Syndrome Interactions (Table 3)
Antiarrhythmic drugs (Class 1a, 1c, III except amiodarone) as first-line treatment for atrial fibrillationChronic constipation—entire criterion
TrimethobenzamideLower urinary tract—inhaled anticholinergic drugs
Mesoridazine—no longer marketed in United States 
Chloral hydrate—no longer marketed in United States 
Table 10. Medications Added Since 2012 Beers Criteria
Independent of Diagnoses or Condition (Table 2)Considering Disease and Syndrome Interactions (Table 3)
Proton-pump inhibitorsFalls and fractures—opioids
DesmopressinInsomnia—armodafinil and modafinil
Anticholinergics, first-generation antihistamines—meclizineDementia or cognitive impairment—eszopiclone and zaleplon
 Delirium—antipsychotics

Noteworthy Changes to PIMs and Older Adults

Based on two retrospective studies, the recommendation to avoid the anti-infective nitrofurantoin in individuals with a creatinine clearance of less than 60 mL/min has been revised, given evidence that it can be used with relative safety and efficacy in individuals with a creatinine clearance of 30 mL/min or greater. The long-term use of nitrofurantoin for suppression should still be avoided because of concerns of irreversible pulmonary fibrosis, liver toxicity, and peripheral neuropathy (Table 2).

The recommendation to avoid antiarrhythmic drugs (Classes 1a, 1c, III) as first-line treatment for atrial fibrillation has been removed in light of new evidence and guidelines that suggest that rhythm control can have outcomes as good as or better than those with rate control. Nevertheless, certain antiarrhythmics remain in the criteria. Amiodarone is still to be avoided as first-line therapy for atrial fibrillation unless the individual has heart failure or substantial left ventricular hypertrophy. Dronedarone is to be avoided in individuals with permanent atrial fibrillation or with severe or recently decompensated heart failure. Disopyramide, a Class 1a antiarrhythmic drug, should also be avoided because it is highly anticholinergic. Digoxin should be avoided as first-line therapy for atrial fibrillation or heart failure and should not be prescribed in daily doses greater than 0.125 mg for any indication.

The nonbenzodiazepine, benzodiazepine receptor agonist hypnotics (eszopiclone, zaleplon, zolpidem) are to be avoided without consideration of duration of use because of their association with harms balanced with their minimal efficacy in treating insomnia. The recommendation to avoid sliding-scale insulin is retained, and further clarification of what constitutes a sliding-scale regimen is provided. An addition to Table 2 is the avoidance of the use of proton-pump inhibitors beyond 8 weeks without justification. Multiple studies and five systematic reviews and meta-analyses support an association between proton-pump inhibitor exposure and Clostridium difficile infection, bone loss, and fractures. Desmopressin for the treatment of nocturia or nocturnal polyuria is another addition because of the high risk of hyponatremia.

Noteworthy Changes to Drug–Disease and Drug–Syndrome PIMS

The nonbenzodiazepine, benzodiazepine receptor agonist hypnotics have been added to the list of drugs to avoid in individuals with dementia or cognitive impairment. Opioids have been added to the list of central nervous system (CNS) medications that should be avoided in individuals with a history of falls or fractures. Antipsychotics are to be avoided as first-line treatment of delirium because of conflicting evidence on their effectiveness and the potential for adverse drug effects (Table 3).

Drugs to Be Used with Caution

Table 4, medications to be used with caution in older adults, has not been changed. The panel determined that the medications listed in this table did not rise to the level of meriting inclusion in Tables 2 and 3 and should not be considered key elements of the criteria. Nevertheless, the panel believed that there was sufficient uncertainty or concern about the balance of benefits and harms for the listed medications that clinicians should be aware of potential problems and exercise caution when considering their use.

Drug–Drug Interactions

New to the AGS Beers Criteria are drug–drug interactions (excluding anti-infectives) that are highly associated with harmful outcomes in older adults.[12] The list is selective, and not comprehensive, and is not intended to diminish the clinical importance of known drug–drug interactions not listed. Examples of drug–drug interactions included in this new section include peripheral alpha-1 blockers used in combination with loop diuretics, which increases the risk of urinary incontinence in women, and taking three or more CNS-active drugs concomitantly, which increases the risk of falls. Other interactions manifest as extensions of both drugs' known pharmacological effects (e.g., angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) and potassium-sparing diuretics without indications for use in systolic heart failure (amiloride and triamterene), which together increase risk of hyperkalemia). Other interactions increase the risk of a drug's toxicity (e.g., lithium in combination with an ACEI or loop diuretics) (Table 5).

PIMs Based on Kidney Function

Also new for 2015 are drugs that should be avoided or for which the dose should be adjusted in individuals with a specific degree of kidney impairment to avoid harm. This list was adapted from published consensus guidelines that an expert group including two AGS Beers Criteria panelists developed.[13] The AGS Beers panel reviewed the evidence and selected medications from these earlier consensus guidelines for inclusion; added additional medications, including several anticoagulants; and included spironolactone and triamterene, which in the 2012 criteria had been listed in Tables 2 and 3, respectively. The creatinine clearance thresholds below which use of apixaban, edoxaban, and rivaroxaban are to be avoided are based on clinical trial exclusion criteria and may not be the same as those in their labeling. As with the drug–drug interaction table, this list is not meant to be comprehensive but to highlight potentially important but sometimes overlooked dose adjustments that are of particular concern for older adults. Anti-infective drugs were not included because the focus of the AGS Beers Criteria is on medications often employed for chronic use and because such information is available from multiple other sources (Table 6).

Drugs with Strong Anticholinergic Properties

Numerous scales are available to rank anticholinergic activity. The panel used a composite of several scales to draft Table 7, which provides an updated list of drugs with strong anticholinergic properties.[14-17] Investigators who developed the scales that the panel used in 2012 were asked whether any changes had been made, and the panel considered those. The most notable drug to be removed from the list was the second-generation antihistamine loratadine.

Discussion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Objectives
  4. Intent of Criteria
  5. Methods
  6. Panel Selection
  7. Literature Search
  8. Development Process
  9. Results
  10. Discussion
  11. Panel members and affiliations
  12. Acknowledgments
  13. References

The 2015 AGS Beers Criteria for PIMs is the second such update by the American Geriatrics Society of medications to avoid in older adults and the fourth update of the criteria since their original release.[18-21] The criteria were first published in 1991, making them the longest-running criteria for PIMs in older adults. The process improves with each update. The literature search has become more targeted and refined, identifying new and important supporting evidence. The evidence review and grading methodology has been adjusted according to best practices and evolving approaches recommended by expert organizations. As in 2012, this resulted in some changes to the criteria in 2015, including drugs that were modified or dropped and a few new additions. The 2015 update introduced two new areas to improve drug safety in older adults: 1) drugs for which dose adjustment is required based on kidney impairment and 2) drug–drug interactions. Rather than create numerous individual caveats for each criterion excluding individuals in palliative care or hospice settings, the panel chose to exclude individuals in these settings from the criteria. The panel felt justified making this decision because of the shift in benefit-to-harm ratio in end-of-life decisions and paucity of evidence available for avoiding drugs in these populations.

Compared with the 2012 update, the 2015 update has fewer changes and new medications, likely because of the shorter time span since the criteria were last revised. Only three new medications and two new drug classes were added to Tables 2 or 3, although several were modified or had some changes to the rationale and recommendation statements. In a few instances, the level of evidence was revised based on new literature and the improved modified grading methodology. Some notable changes were the 90-day-use caveat being removed from nonbenzodiazepine, benzodiazepine receptor agonist hypnotics, resulting in an unambiguous “avoid” statement (without caveats) because of the increase in the evidence of harm in this area since the 2012 update.[22, 23] In some cases, the rationale or wording of an avoid statement was modified or clarified because the panel and AGS had received comments regarding some confusion about a medication in the criteria. For example, the term “sliding scale” insulin was defined more clearly when referred to in the criteria. Other changes included lowering the creatinine clearance at which nitrofurantoin should be avoided to less than 30 mL/min from less than 60 mL/min. Also, removing Classes 1a, 1c, and III (with the exception of amiodarone) antiarrhythmic drugs as first-line treatment for atrial fibrillation. Constipation was removed as a drug–disease, drug–syndrome category, because this condition is common across the age spectrum and relevant drug–disease, drug–syndrome combinations to avoid are not predominantly specific to older adults.

Some other important additions in the 2015 update were the addition of long-term proton-pump inhibitor use in the absence of a strong indication because of risk of C. difficile infection, bone loss, and fractures and the addition of opioids in the diagnosis and condition table for older adults with a history of falls and fractures. If opioids must be used, it is recommended that reducing the use of other CNS-active medications be considered.[24, 25] This statement is in recognition of the need to have adequate pain control while balancing the potential harms from opioids and untreated pain. The panel balanced the difficulty and challenges of poorly treated pain with the harms of opioids and available alternatives in older adults. Another critical change was to the language for use of antipsychotics[26] in the dementia and delirium drug–disease, drug–syndrome category and the addition of avoiding antipsychotics in persons with delirium as first-line treatment. With increasing evidence of harm associated with antipsychotics[27, 28] and conflicting evidence on their effectiveness in delirium and dementia, the rationale to avoid was modified to “avoid antipsychotics for behavioral problems unless nonpharmacological options (e.g., behavioral interventions) have failed or are not possible, and the older adult is threatening substantial harm to self or others.”[7] The table of medications with strong anticholinergic properties has been updated. Anticholinergic burden and measurement is an area of literature that is continually evolving. Use of anticholinergic medications remains a concern because it is associated with impaired cognitive and physical function and risk of dementia.[29, 30]

These criteria continue to be useful and necessary as a clinical and public health tool to improve medication safety in older adults and to increase awareness of polypharmacy and aid decision-making for choosing drugs to avoid in older adults. The AGS is publishing a companion piece to this update Beers Criteria; How to Use the Beers Criteria—A Guide for Patients, Clinicians, Health Systems, and Payors, published online in this journal. Recent work illustrates that prescription drug use has increased in older adults over the past 20 years, with poorer health in older adults associated with being on multiple medications.[31] Using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), it was found that at least 41% of older adults still filled a prescription for a PIM in 2009–10 according to the 2012 AGS Beers Criteria. Even though the rate of PIM use declined from 45.5% in 2006–07 to 40.8% in 2009–10, almost half of older adults still filled a PIM presecription.[32] Despite their potential to increase the risk of falls, fractures, and cognitive impairment, the use of benzodiazepines remains high (~9%).[32, 33]

The 2015 AGS Beers Criteria are an essential evidence-based tool to use in decision-making for drugs to avoid in older adults, but they are not meant to override clinical judgment or an individual's preferences, values, and needs. There may be cases in which the healthcare provider determines that a drug on the list is the only reasonable alternative or the individual is at the end of life or receiving palliative care. The criteria were developed in a way that facilitates a team approach (physicians, nurses, pharmacists, therapists, and others) to prescribing and monitoring adverse effects.

The 2015 AGS Beers Criteria encourage the use of nonpharmacological approaches when needed to avoid drugs that have a high risk of causing an adverse event. The evidence base for specific nonpharmacological approaches using a person-centered approach to care is growing, especially in older adults and in persons with dementia and delirium.[34-36] A nonpharmacological toolkit for reducing antipsychotic use in older adults by promoting positive behavioral health, developed by investigators at The Pennsylvania State University and the Polisher Research Institute, was recently released. This toolkit can be accessed online (www.nursinghometoolkit.com). Nonpharmacological strategies for hospitalized older adults and their caregivers can also be accessed online (www.hospitalelderlifeprogram.org). A 2015 systematic review and meta-analysis of nonpharmacological strategies in older adults with delirium found that 11 of 14 studies demonstrated significant reductions in delirium incidence and a reduction in the rate of falls.[37] Several studies have also illustrated effective interventions to improve sleep.[38, 39]

The AGS Beers Criteria are one component of a comprehensive approach to medication use in older adults, and they should be used in conjunction with other tools. The Screening Tool of Older Persons' potentially inappropriate Prescriptions (STOPP) and Screening Tool to Alert doctors to Right Treatment (START) criteria, first developed in 2008, are an explicit tool for assessing prescribing in older adults in Europe. They were updated in 2015 to include drugs affecting or being affected by renal function, similar to this update of the AGS Beers Criteria.[40] Similar tools have been developed in Europe.[41] The current update of the AGS Beers Criteria confirms and extends this work with a rigorous independent evidence grading process, an open peer-review comment period consistent with Institute of Medicine standards, and the addition of drug–drug interactions and renal dose adjustment.

The 2015 AGS Beers Criteria have several important limitations. Older adults are often underrepresented in drug trials.[11, 42] Thus, using an evidence-based approach may underestimate some drug-related problems or lead to weaker evidence grading. The GRADE process was used for evidence grading, which allowed for rigor and greater transparency in the evidence grading process.[10] The criteria cannot account for all individuals and special populations; for instance, they do not comprehensively address the needs of individuals receiving palliative and hospice care, in whom the balance of benefits and harms for many drugs on the list may differ from those of the general population of older adults. Finally, the search strategies used might have missed some studies published in languages other than English and studies available in unpublished technical reports, white papers, or other “gray literature” sources.

The process had many noteworthy strengths, including the use of a 13-member, geographically diverse interdisciplinary panel with ex-officio members from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, National Committee for Quality Assurance, and Pharmacy Quality Alliance; the use of an evidence-based approach using Institute of Medicine standards and independent grading of the evidence by panel members followed by a consensus approach; and the continued development of a partnership with AGS to update the criteria regularly.

In conclusion, the 2015 AGS Beers Criteria have several important updates, including the addition of new medications, clarification of some of the 2012 criteria language, the addition of selected drugs for which dose adjustment is required based on kidney impairment, and the addition of selected drug–drug interactions. Careful application of the criteria by healthcare professionals, consumers, payors, and health systems should lead to closer monitoring of drug use. Dissemination of the criteria should lead to increased education and awareness of drug-related problems, increased reporting of drug-related problems, active patient and caregiver engagement and communication regarding medication use, targeted interventions to decrease adverse drug events in older adults, and improved outcomes. Continued support from the AGS will allow for the criteria methodology and evidence for PIMs to be evaluated regularly and to remain up to date, relevant and valuable.

Panel members and affiliations

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Objectives
  4. Intent of Criteria
  5. Methods
  6. Panel Selection
  7. Literature Search
  8. Development Process
  9. Results
  10. Discussion
  11. Panel members and affiliations
  12. Acknowledgments
  13. References

The following individuals were members of the AGS Panel to update the 2015 AGS Beers Criteria: Donna M. Fick, PhD, RN, FGSA, FAAN, College of Nursing and Medicine, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA (co-chair); Todd P. Semla, PharmD, MS, BCPS, FCCP, AGSF, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Pharmacy Benefits Management Services and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL (co-chair); Judith Beizer, PharmD, CGP, FASCP, AGSF, St. Johns University, New York, NY; Nicole Brandt, PharmD, BCPP, CGP, University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD; Robert Dombrowski, PharmD, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Baltimore, MD (nonvoting member); Catherine E. DuBeau, MD, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA; Woody Eisenberg, MD, Pharmacy Quality Alliance, Inc., Baltimore, MD (nonvoting member); Jerome J. Epplin, MD, AGSF, Litchfield Family Practice Center, Litchfield, IL; Nina Flanagan, PhD, GNP-BC, APHM-BC, Decker School of Nursing, Binghamton University, Dunmore, PA; Erin Giovannetti, National Committee for Quality Assurance, Washington, DC (nonvoting member); Joseph Hanlon, PharmD, MS, BCPS, FASHP, FASCP, FGSA, AGSF, Department of Medicine (Geriatric Medicine) School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh and Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center, Veterans Affairs Healthcare (GRECC) System, Pittsburgh, PA; Peter Hollmann, MD, AGSF, Alpert Medical School, Brown University, Providence, RI; Rosemary Laird, MD, MHSA, AGSF, Geriatric Medical Leader for Florida Hospital, Winter Park, FL; Sunny Linnebur, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS, CGP, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Colorado, Aurora, CO; Satinderpal Sandhu, MD, Summa Health Care System and Northeast Ohio Medical University, Akron, OH; Michael Steinman, MD, University of California at San Francisco and San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco, CA.

Acknowledgments

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Objectives
  4. Intent of Criteria
  5. Methods
  6. Panel Selection
  7. Literature Search
  8. Development Process
  9. Results
  10. Discussion
  11. Panel members and affiliations
  12. Acknowledgments
  13. References

The decisions and content of the 2015 AGS Beers Criteria are those of the AGS and the panel members and are not necessarily those of the U.S. government or U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sue Radcliff, Independent Researcher, Denver, Colorado, provided research services. Jirong Yue and Gina Rocco provided additional research services. Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS, provided editorial services. Elvy Ickowicz, MPH, Zhenya Hurd, and Mary Jordan Samuel provided additional research and administrative support. And as always, the late Mark H. Beers, MD.

The following organizations with special interest and expertise in the appropriate use of medications in older adults provided peer review of a preliminary draft of this guideline: American Medical Directors Association—The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Geriatric Psychiatry, American Academy of Neurology, American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American Association of Diabetes Educators, American College of Clinical Pharmacy, American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American College of Physicians, American College of Surgeons, American Osteopathic Association, American Pharmacists Association, American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, American Urological Society, the Endocrine Society, Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association, Gerontological Society of America, National Committee for Quality Assurance, National Gerontological Nursing Association, NICHE, Pharmacy Quality Alliance, Society for Women's Health Research, and Society of General Internal Medicine.

Conflict of Interest: Dr. Beizer is an author and editor for LexiComp, Inc. Dr. Brandt is a consultant for Omnicare, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and University of Pittsburgh and a Section Editor for the Journal of Gerontological Nursing and received a grant from Econometrica. Dr. Fick is a paid consultant for SLACK Inc., is an editor for the Journal of Gerontological Nursing, and has current R01 funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Nursing Research. Dr. Linnebur is a consultant for Colorado Access and Kindred Healthcare. Dr. Semla serves on the AARP Caregiver Advisory Panel, is an editor for LexiComp, and is a consultant for Omnicare. Dr. Semla's wife holds commercial interest in AbbVie (at which she is also an employee), Abbott, and Hospira. Dr. Semla receives honoraria from the AGS for his contribution as an author of Geriatrics at Your Fingertips and for serving as a section editor for the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society and is a past president and chair of the AGS Board of Directors. Dr. Steinman is a consult for Iodine.com, a web start-up company.

Author Contributions: All panel members contributed to the concept, design, and preparation of the manuscript.

Sponsor's Role: AGS staff participated in the final technical preparation and submission of the manuscript.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Objectives
  4. Intent of Criteria
  5. Methods
  6. Panel Selection
  7. Literature Search
  8. Development Process
  9. Results
  10. Discussion
  11. Panel members and affiliations
  12. Acknowledgments
  13. References