American Geriatrics Society 2023 Updated Beers Criteria Highlights

Mengru Wang, MD

August 21, 2023

Every 4 years, an interprofessional panel of experts from the American Geriatrics Society provides updated guidelines on safe prescribing of medications in older adults, known as the Beers Criteria. A 2023 update was released in May 2023 after panel review of more 1,500 clinical trials and research studies published since the last update.

Anticoagulants

Notable changes to the 2023 guidelines include updated recommendations for anticoagulation. Warfarin should be avoided as initial therapy for venous thromboembolism or nonvalvular atrial fibrillation unless there are contraindications to direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) or other substantial barriers to use.

Dr Mengru Wang

Rivaroxaban should also be avoided, and dabigatran used with caution in favor of apixaban, which is felt to have a better safety profile in older adults. Rivaroxaban may be considered if once daily dosing is deemed to be more clinically appropriate. Financial barriers regarding drug coverage and formulary options were acknowledged as a significant barrier to equitable access to preferred direct oral anticoagulants in older adults.

Diabetes medication

Regarding diabetes management, short-acting sulfonylureas should be avoided in addition to long-acting sulfonylureas, because of the increased risk of hypoglycemia, and cardiovascular and all-cause mortality in older adults. Sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 inhibitors as an entire class are recommended to be used with caution, as older adults are at higher risk of euglycemic ketoacidosis and urogenital infections, particularly in women in the first month of initiating treatment.

Like DOACs, the panel acknowledged that financial considerations may lead to limited options for oral diabetic treatment. In circumstances where a sulfonylurea is used, short-acting forms are preferred over long acting to reduce the risk of prolonged hypoglycemia.

Aspirin for primary prevention

Alongside the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guideline update in 2022 regarding aspirin for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and stroke, the Beer's Criteria recommend against initiation of aspirin for primary prevention in older adults. Ticagrelor and prasugrel should be used with caution because of the increased risk of major bleeding in older adults over the age of 75, compared with clopidogrel. If prasugrel is used, a lower dose of 5 mg is recommended, in line with guidelines by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association.

Pain medication

For pain management, the Beer's Criteria updated recommendations to avoid NSAIDs, particularly when used in combination with steroids or anticoagulants. The panel highlights that even short-term use of NSAIDs is high risk when used in combination with steroids or anticoagulants. If no other alternatives are possible, patients should be placed on a proton pump inhibitor or misoprostol while taking NSAIDs.

Baclofen should be avoided in older adults with renal insufficiency (estimated glomerular filtration rate < 60 mL/min per 1.73 m2) because of the increased risk of encephalopathy, and when used, should be given at the lowest effective dose with close monitoring for mental status changes.

Androgen and estrogen replacement therapy

For androgen replacement therapy, the panel notes that testosterone supplementation should be avoided because of cardiovascular risks unless there is confirmed hypogonadism. The panel revised their recommendation on the basis of emerging data that a history of prostate cancer is not an absolute contraindication for exogenous testosterone. A risk versus benefit discussion about exogenous testosterone should be had with a medical oncologist or urologist in those with a history of prostate cancer.

Regarding estrogen, systemic formulations should not be initiated in women over the age of 60 because of increased risk of cardiovascular events, venous thromboembolism, and dementia. In women with a history of breast cancer, vaginal estrogens are generally felt to be safe to use at low doses, such as less than 25 mcg twice weekly.

Dr. Wang is a geriatrician and general internist at Harborview Medical Center, Seattle.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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