Older Women Overprescribed Prescription More Often Than Men

May 27, 2016

ALTC Editors


Annals of Long-Term Care: Clinical Care and Aging. 2016;24(5):36.

According to a new study published in the journal of Age and Aging, nearly 1 out of 3 British Columbia women over the age of 65 years received inappropriate prescription medicines in 2013, versus 1 out of 4 men of the same age (published online May 5, 2016; doi: 10.1093/ageing/afw074).

Researchers led by Steve Morgan, PhD (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada), analyzed 660,679 participants from population-based health care data sets to find out which medical and non-medical factors influence patients’ risk of receiving prescription drugs on the American Geriatrics Society’s list of drugs that should be avoided for older patients. 

Despite increased awareness among doctors and pharmacists of the harms associated with prescribing certain medications to older patients, the study found older British Columbians continue to routinely receive inappropriate prescriptions. 

The odds of receiving potentially inappropriate prescriptions were associated with several clinical and socioeconomic factors. But, the biggest non-medical risk factor was an individual’s sex; even after controlling for those factors, community-dwelling women were at 16% higher odds of receiving a potentially inappropriate prescription than men (adjusted odds ratio, 1.16; 95% confidence interval, 1.12–1.21). Much of this sex difference stemmed from women’s increased odds of receiving potentially inappropriate prescriptions for benzodiazepines and other hypnotics, for tertiary tricyclic antidepressants, and for non-selective nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The study also found that women were more likely to receive medications in general than men (31% vs 26%).

Dr Morgan and colleagues ultimately concluded that addressing the problem of potentially inappropriate prescribing would require investment in conventional, clinical tools to assist with deprescribing potentially inappropriate medications. They also recommend that more nuanced solutions will be needed to address how gender, as well as its interactions with age, wealth, and ethnicity, affect the norms of and relationships between prescribers and patients. —Amanda Del Signore