High prevalence of poor quality drug prescribing in older individuals: A nationwide report from the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA)

Graziano Onder, Stefano Bonassi, Angela M. Abbatecola, Pietro Folino-Gallo, Francesco Lapi, Niccolò Marchionni, Luca Pani, Sergio Pecorelli, Daniele Sancarlo, Angelo Scuteri, Gianluca Trifirò, Cristiana Vitale, Stefano Maria Zuccaro, Roberto Bernabei, Massimo Fini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background.Poor quality of drug prescribing in older persons is often associated with increased drug-related adverse events, hospitalization, and mortality. The present study describes a set of prescribing quality indicators developed by the Geriatrics Working Group of the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) and estimates their prevalence in the entire elderly (≥65 years) population in Italy.Methods.We performed a cross-sectional study using 2011 data from the OsMed (Osservatorio dei Medicinali) database, which comprises all prescribed drugs that are reimbursed by the Italian National Healthcare System. Yearly prevalence of drug prescribing quality indicators in the Italian older population (n = 12,301,537) was determined.Results.Overall, 13 quality indicators addressing polypharmacy, adherence to treatment of chronic diseases, prescribing cascade, undertreatment, drug-drug interactions, and drugs to be avoided were identified. Polypharmacy was common, with more than 1.3 million individuals taking greater than or equal to 10 drugs (11.3% of the study population). The prevalence of low adherence and undertreatment was also elevated and increased with advancing age, with highest prevalence occurring in individuals aged 85 years and older. Prevalence was less than 3% for quality indicators assessing the prescribing cascade, drug-drug interactions, and drugs to be avoided.Conclusions.These results confirm the high frequency of suboptimal drug prescribing in older adults, using a database that covers the whole Italian population. In general, this descriptive study may help in prioritizing strategies aimed at improving the quality of prescribing in elderly population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-437
Number of pages8
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • OsMed.
  • Prescribing
  • Quality indicators

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Medicine(all)


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