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      Potentially inappropriate use of benzodiazepines and z-drugs in the older population—analysis of associations between long-term use and patient-related factors

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          The long-term use of benzodiazepines (BZD) and z-drugs in older populations is associated with a variety of sociodemographic and health-related factors. Recent studies reported that long-term BZD and z-drugs use is associated with increased age, female sex, and severe negative psychological (e.g., depression) and somatic (e.g., chronic disease) factors. The current study explores the sociodemographic and health-related factors associated with long-term BZD and z-drugs use in the elderly.


          We conducted a cross-sectional survey among randomly selected patients of one health insurance plan (“AOK North-West”) with BZD and z-drugs prescriptions in the past 12 months. The sample was stratified by appropriate German prescription guidelines (yes vs. no) and age (50–65 vs. >65 years). To examine the association of selected sociodemographic and psychological variables (e.g., sex, employment status, quality of life, depression) with long-term use, a binary logistic regression analysis was conducted.


          In total, data from 340 patients were analyzed. The mean age was 72.1 ( SD = 14.5) years, and the most commonly used substances were zopiclon (38.1%), oxazepam (18.1%), and lorazepam (13.8%). The mean defined daily dose (DDD) was 0.73 ( SD = 0.47). Insomnia was the main reason for prescribing BZD and z-drugs. The long-term use of BZD and z-drugs was significantly associated with unemployment ( OR = 2.9, 95% CI [1.2–7.1]) and generally problematic medication use ( OR = 0.5, 95% CI [0.2–1.0]).


          Unemployment status and problematic medication use had a significant association with the patient-reported, long-term use of BZD and z-drugs. Divergent prescription patterns might suggest problematic patterns of BZD and z-drugs use. The causal connection between the identified factors and problematic BZD and z-drugs prescription is not discussed in this paper. Nevertheless, employment status and possible evidence of general problematic drug use may be a warning signal to the prescribers of BZD and z-drugs.

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          Most cited references 43

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          Sleep complaints among elderly persons: an epidemiologic study of three communities.

          The frequencies of five common sleep complaints--trouble falling asleep, waking up, awaking too early, needing to nap and not feeling rested--were assessed in over 9,000 participants aged 65 years and older in the National Institute on Aging's multicentered study entitled "Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly" (EPESE). Less than 20% of the participants in each community rarely or never had any complaints, whereas over half reported at least one of these complaints as occurring most of the time. Between 23% and 34% had symptoms of insomnia, and between 7% and 15% percent rarely or never felt rested after waking up in the morning. In multivariate analyses, sleep complaints were associated with an increasing number of respiratory symptoms, physical disabilities, nonprescription medications, depressive symptoms and poorer self-perceived health. Sleep disturbances, particularly among older persons, oftentimes may be secondary to coexisting diseases. Determining the prevalence of specific sleep disorders, independent of health status, will require the development of more sophisticated and objective measures of sleep disturbances.
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            Sleep disturbances and chronic disease in older adults: results of the 2003 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Survey.

            To assess the association between sleep problems and chronic disease in older adults. Self-reported standardized questionnaire data from 1506 community-dwelling men and women aged 55-84 years in the continental United States who completed a 20-min telephone interview when contacted from lists of randomly selected telephone numbers. A majority of the participants (83%) reported one or more of 11 medical conditions and nearly one in four elderly respondents (age 65-84 years) had major comorbidity (i.e. four or more conditions). Depression, heart disease, bodily pain and memory problems were associated with more prevalent symptoms of insomnia. Other conditions such as obesity, arthritis, diabetes, lung diseases, stroke and osteoporosis were associated with other sleep-related problems such as breathing pauses, snoring, daytime sleepiness, restless legs or insufficient sleep (<6 h nightly). Poll findings are consistent with epidemiological studies of sleep, aging and chronic disease. These results suggest that the sleep complaints common in older adults are often secondary to their comorbidities and not to aging per se. These types of studies may be useful in promoting sleep awareness among health professionals and among older adults, especially those with heart disease, depression, chronic bodily pain or major comorbidity.
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              Potentially inappropriate medication use among elderly home care patients in Europe.

              Criteria for potentially inappropriate medication use among elderly patients have been used in the past decade in large US epidemiological surveys to identify populations at risk and specifically target risk-management strategies. In contrast, in Europe little information is available about potentially inappropriate medication use and is based on small studies with uncertain generalizability. To estimate the prevalence and associated factors of potentially inappropriate medication use among elderly home care patients in European countries. Retrospective cross-sectional study of 2707 elderly patients receiving home care (mean [SD] age, 82.2 [ 7.2] years) representatively enrolled in metropolitan areas of the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom. Patients were prospectively assessed between September 2001 and January 2002 using the Minimum Data Set in Home Care instrument. Prevalence of potentially inappropriate medication use was documented using all expert panels criteria for community-living elderly persons (Beers and McLeod). Patient-related characteristics independently associated with inappropriate medication use were identified with a multiple logistic regression model. Combining all 3 sets of criteria, we found that 19.8% of patients in the total sample used at least 1 inappropriate medication; using older 1997 criteria it was 9.8% to 10.9%. Substantial differences were documented between Eastern Europe (41.1% in the Czech Republic) and Western Europe (mean 15.8%, ranging from 5.8% in Denmark to 26.5% in Italy). Potentially inappropriate medication use was associated with patient's poor economic situation (adjusted relative risk [RR], 1.96; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.58-2.36), polypharmacy (RR, 1.91; 95% CI, 1.62- 2.22), anxiolytic drug use (RR, 1.82; 95% CI, 1.51-2.15), and depression (RR, 1.29; 95% CI, 1.06-1.55). Negatively associated factors were age 85 years and older (RR, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.65-0.92) and living alone (RR, 0.76; 95% CI, 0.64-0.89). The odds of potentially inappropriate medication use significantly increased with the number of associated factors (P<.001). Substantial differences in potentially inappropriate medication use exist between European countries and might be a consequence of different regulatory measures, clinical practices, or inequalities in socioeconomic background. Since financial resources and selected patient-related characteristics are associated with such prescribing, specific educational strategies and regulations should reflect these factors to improve prescribing quality in elderly individuals in Europe.

                Author and article information

                PeerJ Inc. (San Francisco, USA )
                22 May 2018
                : 6
                [1 ]Department of Medical Psychology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf , Hamburg, Germany
                [2 ]Center for Interdisciplinary Addiction Research, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf , Hamburg, Germany
                ©2018 Mokhar et al.

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.

                The authors received no funding for this work.
                Psychiatry and Psychology
                Public Health


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