Older people and medicines

Find reliable independent health and treatment information about medicines safety in older people (including side effects, and health issues with taking multiple medicines) written by Australian experts. This includes resources for consumers and health professionals.

About medicines and older people

Around 1 in 3 unplanned hospital admissions for older Australians are related to problems with medicines. Half of these could have been prevented.

More health problems, multiple medicines and other changes with age make older people more vulnerable to medicine problems.

You can help prevent these problems by knowing more about the medicines you or someone you care for takes and discussing them with a health professional.

Find out more

For health professionals  

Around 1 in 3 unplanned hospital admissions for older Australians are related to problems with medicines. Half of these could have been prevented. Medicine-related hospital admissions have increased sharply in recent decades with the largest increases seen for those aged 80 years and older.

Medicines are essential to caring for older people but the benefits can only be realised when the risks of medicines use in this group are addressed.

Our CPD activities

Consolidate your knowledge on medicines safety in older people, brush-up on current guidelines and practices and earn CPD points through our learning activities.

For your patients

Use the following tools and resources in your patient consultations.

Clinical information

The information below uses the latest guidelines and evidence to help health professionals further understand the issues around medicines and older people. It also includes tools and resources to help educate patients and carers.

Other tools and resources

NPS MedicineWise has a range of tools and resources to support safe use of medicines in older people.

The Medicines Risk Screen is designed to be administered by practice nurses to identify people at an increased risk of medicines-related problems.

Warfarin is the mainstay of anticoagulant therapy, but the newer oral anticoagulants may also have a place for some patients. Use our anticoagulants decision tools to help you start, stop and change between anticoagulants.

The RTI symptomatic management pad (also available in Arabic, Chinese [simplified characters], Chinese [traditional characters], Greek, Italian and Vietnamese) is designed for use in consultations with patients who have simple respiratory tract infections that do not require antibiotics (e.g. common cold, uncomplicated rhinosinusitis).

The Antipsychotic Monitoring Tool lists recommended monitoring intervals and what you need to check for in patients taking antipsychotic medicines long term. For comparative information on antipsychotic medicines, this table of common and serious adverse effects lists the most frequently used antipsychotic medicines and their PBS statuses.

Related information - older people and medicines


19 Aug 2016 Be Medicinewise Week (22-28 August 2016) promotes safer and wiser use of medicines. Find out more.
23 Jun 2016 Find out if you are medicinewise and how to get the best from your medicines.
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06 Jun 2016 Be medicinewise as you age. Download this fact sheet for older adults about using medicines safely.
06 Jun 2016 Download this poster for older adults about using medicines safely.
(Media release)
16 Oct 2015 The National Stakeholders’ Meeting on Quality Use of Medicines to Optimise Ageing in Older Australians will release an outcome statement during Be Medicinewise Week 2015.
(Media release)
16 Oct 2015 Be Medicinewise Week 2015 reminds us that as we age, the way our body handles and reacts to medicines can gradually change. Read more about medicines and ageing.
(Corporate information)
02 Oct 2015 View the findings from a national GP survey on medicines in older people. Choosing safer alternatives and medicine use with frail older patients were among topics evaluated.
(Tool / resource)
30 Sep 2015 Be Medicinewise Week 12-18 October, 2015. Be medicinewise at all ages and life stages.
(Tool / resource)
30 Sep 2015 As we age the way the body handles and reacts to medicines changes. Learn about being medicinewise as you get older.
(Tool / resource)
30 Sep 2015 As we age, our reaction to medicines can change and we need to be medicinewise. Download this factsheet about medicines and older adults.