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Benzodiazepine and Sedative-hypnotic Use Among Older Seriously Ill Veterans: Choosing Wisely?

Garrido MM, Prigerson HG, Penrod JD, Jones SC, Boockvar KS. Benzodiazepine and Sedative-hypnotic Use Among Older Seriously Ill Veterans: Choosing Wisely? Clinical therapeutics. 2014 Nov 4; 36(11):1547–1554.

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Purpose The 2014 American Geriatrics Society's Choosing Wisely list cautions against the use of any benzodiazepines or other sedative-hypnotics (BSHs) as initial treatments for agitation, insomnia, or delirium in older adults. Because these symptoms are prevalent among hospitalized patients, seriously ill older adults are at risk of receiving these potentially inappropriate medications. The objectives of this study were to understand the extent to which potentially inappropriate BSHs are being used in hospitalized, seriously ill, older veterans and to understand what clinical and sociodemographic characteristics are associated with potentially inappropriate BSH use. Methods We reviewed medical records of 222 veterans aged 65 years who were hospitalized in an acute care facility in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region in fiscal years 2009 and 2010. Veterans had diagnoses of advanced cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, and/or HIV/AIDS and received inpatient palliative care. Associations among potentially inappropriate BSH use (BSHs for indications other than alcohol withdrawal and current generalized anxiety disorder or one-time use before a medical procedure) and clinical and sociodemographic characteristics were examined with multivariable logistic regression. Findings One-fifth of the sample was prescribed a potentially inappropriate BSH during the index hospitalization during the study period (n = 47). The most commonly prescribed potentially inappropriate medications were zolpidem (n = 26 [11.7%]) and lorazepam (n = 19 [8.9%]). Hispanic ethnicity was significantly associated with prescription of potentially inappropriate BSHs among the entire sample (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 3.79; 95% CI, 1.32-10.88) and among patients who survived until discharge (n = 164; AOR = 5.28; 95% CI, 1.64-17.07). Among patients who survived until discharge, black patients were less likely to be prescribed potentially inappropriate BSHs than white patients (AOR = 0.35; 95% CI, 0.13-0.997), and patients who had past-year BSH prescriptions were more likely to be prescribed a potentially inappropriate BSH than patients without past-year BSH use. Implications The potentially inappropriate BSHs documented in our sample included short- and intermediate-acting benzodiazepines, medications that were not identified as potentially inappropriate for older adults until after these data were collected. Few long-acting benzodiazepines were recorded, suggesting that the older veterans in our sample were receiving medications according to the guidelines in place at the time of hospitalization. Clinicians may be able to reduce prescriptions of newly identified inappropriate BSHs by being aware of medications patients received before hospitalization and by being cognizant of racial/ethnic disparities in symptom management. Future studies should explore reasons for disparities in BSH prescriptions.

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