Use of psychopharmacologic agents in the elderly

Abhilash K Desai
Clinics in Geriatric Medicine 2003, 19 (4): 697-719
Most psychiatric disorders in elderly patients are amenable to treatment, provided that intervention is thorough and intensive. Appropriate and judicious use of psychopharmacologic agents has a potential for dramatically improving the quality of life and functional status of many elderly patients with psychiatric disorders. The decision to prescribe a psychopharmacologic agent in elderly patients is a serious and complex issue. Several basic principles need to be followed (Table 6). Although some strides have been made in the last decade regarding safety and efficacy of many psychopharmacologic agents in elderly [table: see text] patients, for many psychopharmacologic agents, large randomized controlled studies to evaluate efficacy and safety in elderly patients are lacking. Sparse data are available regarding the long-term effects of psychopharmacologic agents in elderly patients. Important gaps remain in our knowledge concerning the optimal duration of treatment for most psychiatric disorders in elderly patients. The treatment data deficiency is most striking among the oldest old (patients aged 85 and older), frail medically ill elderly patients (such as nursing home residents), and ethnic minority groups. Future research should focus on these and other relevant issues related to the use of psychopharmacologic agents in elderly patients.

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