The Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults, commonly called the Beers List, are guidelines for healthcare professionals to help improve the safety of prescribing medications for older adults. They emphasize deprescribing medications that are unnecessary, which helps to reduce the problems of polypharmacy, drug interactions, and adverse drug reactions, thereby improving the risk–benefit ratio of medication regimens in at-risk people.
The criteria are used in geriatrics clinical care to monitor and improve the quality of care. They are also used in training, research, and healthcare policy to assist in developing performance measures and document outcomes. These criteria include lists of medications in which the potential risks may be greater than the potential benefits for people 65 and older. By considering this information, practitioners may be able to reduce harmful side effects caused by such medications. The Beers Criteria are intended to serve as a guide for clinicians and not as a substitute for professional judgment in prescribing decisions. The criteria may be used in conjunction with other information to guide clinicians about safe prescribing in older adults.
Mark H. Beers, a geriatrician, first created the Beers Criteria in 1991, through a consensus panel of experts by using the Delphi method. The criteria were originally published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 1991 and were updated in 1997, 2003, 2012 and 2015
In 2011, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) convened an 11-member multidisciplinary panel of experts in geriatric medicine, nursing, and pharmacotherapy to develop the 2012 American Geriatrics Society Updated Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults.
The 2012 AGS Beers Criteria differ from previous editions in several ways. In addition to using a modified Delphi process for building consensus, the expert panel followed the evidence-based approach that AGS has used since it developed its first practice guideline on persistent pain in 1998. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) in its 2011 report, Clinical Practice Guidelines We Can Trust, recommended that all guideline developers complete a systematic review of the evidence. Following the recommendation of the IOM, AGS added a public comment period that occurred in parallel to its standard invited external peer review process. In a significant departure from previous versions of the criteria, each recommendation is rated for quality of both the evidence supporting the panel’s recommendations and the strength of their recommendations. It is important to note that because medically complex older adults are often excluded from clinical trials, there is a shortage of evidence focused on this specific population.
In another departure from the 2003 criteria, the 2012 AGS Beers Criteria identify and group medications that may be inappropriate for older adults into three different categories instead of just two, as previously. The first category includes medications that are potentially inappropriate for older people because they either pose high risks of adverse effects or appear to have limited effectiveness in older patients, and because there are alternatives to these medications. The second category includes medications that are potentially inappropriate for older people who have certain diseases or disorders because these drugs may exacerbate the specified health problems. The third category includes medications to be used with caution in older adults. While these medications may be associated with more risks than benefits in general, they may be the best choice for a particular individual if administered with caution. The addition of this third category is important because it emphasizes that medications need to be tailored to the unique needs of each patient.
The 2012 AGS Beers Criteria was released in February 2012 via publication in the early online edition of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS). The AGS is developing a process for periodic updates to the criteria.
The most recent update to the Beers criteria was completed in 2015.
Drugs listed on the Beers List are categorized according to risks for bad outcomes. The tables include medications that have cautions, should be avoided, should be avoided with concomitant medical conditions, and are contraindicated and relatively contraindicated in the elderly population. An example of an included drug is diphenhydramine (Benadryl), a first generation H1 antagonist with anticholinergic properties, which may increase sedation and lead to confusion or falls.
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- “Beers Criteria (Medication List)”. Duke Clinical Research Institute. Duke Health. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
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- Marcum, Zachary A.; Hanlon, Joseph T. (April 2012). “Commentary on the New American Geriatric Society Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults”. American Journal of Geriatric Pharmacotherapy. 10 (2): 151–159. doi:10.1016/j.amjopharm.2012.03.002. PMC 3381503. PMID 22483163.
- “Beers Criteria (Medication List)”. Duke Clinical Research Institute. Duke Health.