Medications Seniors Should Avoid: The Beers List

medications seniors should avoid

American Geriatrics Society says these meds aren’t good for seniors

Older adults may be at an increased risk for problems related to drug side effects or interactions. This is because older bodies process medications differently and because seniors usually take multiple drugs for multiple health conditions.

The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) maintains a list of medications that are likely to cause problems for seniors. It’s called the Beers list and is for doctors to use when they’re prescribing drugs to patients who are 65 or older.


What is the Beers List?

In 1991, Dr. Mark Beers published a paper with a list of medications that were considered to be not appropriate for people living in long-term care facilities, who are basically all older adults.

It’s now called the Beers list and, as of 2012, is in its 4th version. It’s used to help doctors improve care for senior patients. The Beers List has been updated and reviewed by the AGS and a panel of experts in geriatric care and pharmacotherapy (drugs).

The list puts medications into three categories:

  • Medications that could be inappropriate for seniors.
  • Drugs that could make the disease or condition worse because of the drug interactions or side effects.
  • Meds that should be used with caution.

The Beers list has recommendations around each medication and says why it should be avoided and if there are specific situations where there’s a higher chance of a bad reaction.


Why would a doctor need the Beers list?

Doctors who don’t specialize in treating older adults usually have more younger patients than old. They might have never prescribed certain medications for condition common in older adults. They’re less likely to have experience with side effects or interactions that are more common in seniors.

This lack of experience can be a big problem if a drug side effect or interaction causes a problem for your senior. Not realizing the problem comes from the medication itself, that doctor could just prescribe another medication to help with the side effect symptom.

More drugs are not a good thing for seniors! What should be done is fixing the actual cause of the problem, which means finding an alternative to the first medication that will work better with fewer side effects.

Geriatricians have the most experience treating older patients and are more experienced with drugs commonly used by seniors. They’re also more likely to be familiar with the Beers List and have a better idea of what medications do and don’t work well for seniors.


How you could use the Beers List

Review the medications your senior is taking and see if they’re on the Beers list. If they are, you might want to discuss them with your older adult’s doctor to see if they’re absolutely necessary or if an alternative might be better.

You’re not second guessing the doctor, you’re getting a better understanding of why a specific drug is needed and what side effects or interactions you should watch for.

At the end of the day, the doctor is the expert. But, to get the best care for your senior, you need to fully understand their condition and what treatment is right for them.


Bottom line

This list helps you ask good questions and, if problems come up, this list could help your doctor (and you!) figure out the cause of the problem.


Next Step  Save or print the latest Beers list (2012 update)


You might also like:
Check Medications for Dangerous Drug Interactions
Q & A: I’m Worried About the Doctor Giving Mom New Medicine
Medications May Cause Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease


By DailyCaring Editorial Staff
Image: Safe Life Senior


PS – Thank you to Dr. Leslie Kernisan for suggesting this article topic!


  • Reply March 22, 2018

    Linda S

    Thank you so much for the helpful link. A physician just put my 82 year old mother-in-law, who has moderate dementia, on Temazepam, which increases cogntive impairment, delirium, falls, etc and is subject to abuse. For a ‘sleep disorder’ she complained about. While the solution is simple, don’t sleep in the day, don’t drink caffeinated products after 5! No pills necessary.

    • Reply March 23, 2018


      So glad this is helpful! It’s great that you were able to find out that this medication didn’t work for your mother-in-law. It’s also great that you were able to find a non-drug solution that works for her. Sometimes medication is needed and sometimes it does more harm than good, like in her case.

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