What Drugs Should Seniors Avoid?


Because so many seniors I see have complaints such as nausea, weakness, fatigue, no appetite, or confusion, I encourage them to temporarily stop medications which have such side effects to see if improvement occurs (and it often does!!).

A list of ‘problem drugs’ called The Beer’s Criteria, was first published in 1993. Although all drugs have side-effects, it outlines 48 drugs or classes of drugs which cause more frequent problems in seniors and are therefore generally discouraged by Medicare and by the American Geriatrics Society.

The State Department of Health uses Beer’s List when evaluating the quality of care in nursing homes:  if a resident is on one of those drugs, the surveyor checks that the doctor has documented good reasons why it is needed.

Examples from the List:  amitriptyline [Elavil]—if more than 10mg/day; amiodarone [Cordarone]; dicyclomine [Bentyl];  all NSAID’s (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs – pain killers such as ibuprofen [Motrin], naproxen [Aleve]—because of the high risk of kidney failure and stomach bleeding ).

To see the complete list and potential problems, a good summary is in Wikipedia under Beers List.

Although a drug on the List frequently has side-effects, not everyone is affected; and sometimes that drug is the only one which helps.  It’s important to discuss the drug options with your doctor.

Next time:  What can be done to minimize unnecessary medications?