Research Output

What doctors need to know: Prescribing or not for the oldest old

  Given the global increase in the number of people over the age of 85, there is a growing body of work concerning this group, termed the oldest old. Much of this work is confined to the literature specialising in geriatrics and the more generic health care papers refer to ‘older people’ with little definition of what is meant by ‘older’. Iatrogenesis (ill health caused by doctors) is a major issue and general practitioners (GPs) need practical help in prescribing for the oldest old. This paper presents a narrative review of the literature on prescribing and the oldest old. The results showed that all papers sourced referred to prescribing for the ‘old’ as those aged over 65, with only scant mention of oldest old. Yet prescribing for the oldest old involves clinical judgement and knowledge of the patient. It includes weighing up what will do good, cause no harm and is acceptable to the individual. GPs have to make treatment choices mostly in isolation from colleagues, during time-limited consultations and with few relevant guidelines on managing multi-morbidities in the oldest old. A major issue in prescribing for people over the age of 85 is that guidelines for diseases are based on trials with younger adults, outline the best practice for one disease in isolation (i.e. not in the presence of other diseases) and take little account of the interactions between the drugs used in managing several diseases in frail older people. There is a growing body of work, however, calling for specialist services for the oldest old.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    04 May 2016

  • Publication Status:


  • Publisher

    Elsevier BV

  • DOI:


  • Cross Ref:


  • ISSN:


  • Library of Congress:

    RT Nursing

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    618 Gynecology, obstetrics, pediatrics & geriatrics


Kydd, A. & Fleming, A. (2016). What doctors need to know: Prescribing or not for the oldest old. Maturitas. 90, 9-16. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2016.05.003. ISSN 0378-5122



Oldest old; Iactrogenesis; Polypharmacy; Primary care; Prescribing

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