An easy way to review risks of medicines-related problems in older Australians

11 March 2014 

The latest Clinical e-Audit from NPS MedicineWise enables doctors to review and rationalise medicine use in older people and help avoid medicines-related problems.

The audit—Medicines in older people: review and rationalise—is part of a suite of professional learning activities designed to address the complex medicines safety issues affecting older Australians.

Available online the clinical audit allows GPs to review current practice against best practice guidelines, receive individualised feedback, create plans for ongoing patient management and compare results with those of peers.

NPS MedicineWise Clinical Advisor Dr Philippa Binns says the activity supports GPs to systematically review medicines use in older patients in light of their health status, vulnerabilities and unique treatment goals.

“Medicines are an essential component of care in older people but as we age, medicines use can become a double-edged sword,” says Dr Binns.

“Around one in three unplanned hospital admissions involving older Australians are due to problems with medicines and half of these could have been prevented. This reflects the challenges inherent in managing a number of comorbidities and increasingly complex medicines regimens in older patients.”

The audit also highlights the risks associated with certain medicines for older people and encourages doctors to consider the benefits of non-pharmacological therapies for their patients.

To be eligible to be included in this Clinical e-Audit, patients must be aged 75 years or older using five or more medicines and prescribed at least one of the following:

  • an antipsychotic medicine for behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia OR
  • a benzodiazepine for insomnia OR
  • an opioid for chronic non-cancer pain.
After completing the activity participants will be able to: 
  • reflect on how they review older people’s medicines;
  • reflect on the benefits of non-pharmacological therapies;
  • consider risk factors that may contribute to medicines-related problems;
  • consider the need for ongoing therapy with antipsychotic, benzodiazepine and opioid medicines;
  • know how to recognise and avoid a prescribing cascade.

“Older patients have highly individual health needs and treatment goals so part of the challenge for doctors is being able to assess and review each patient’s medicines use in light of their unique and changing circumstances,” says Dr Binns.

“Preventing medicines-related problems for older patients requires doctors to confidently assess risks and recognise when a medicines review is required. In particular, GPs should be able to recognise when medicines carry a substantially higher risk of adverse events or when there is no clear indication for use in older people.”

This latest Clinical e-Audit from NPS MedicineWise is the newest quality improvement activity for the 2014-16 triennium and is recognised for the Quality Prescribing Incentive of the Practice Incentive Program. General practitioners can also earn 40 RACGP QI&CPD points or 30 ACRRM PRPD points for completing this activity.

Register free for your CPD activities at

For more information about the Older and wiser: promoting safe use of medicines in older people program, visit

Media enquiries: Stephanie Childs on (02) 8217 8667, 0419 618 365 or

Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS MedicineWise enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests. We are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health.


Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS MedicineWise enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests. We are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health.

Australian Prescriber is an independent peer-reviewed journal providing critical commentary on therapeutic topics for health professionals, particularly doctors in general practice. It is published every two months and distributed to health professionals free of charge, and is also available online at 

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