Potential underuse, overuse, and inappropriate use of antidepressants in older veteran nursing home residents

Joseph T. Hanlon, Xiaoqiang Wang, Nicholas G. Castle, Roslyn A. Stone, Steven M. Handler, Todd P. Semla, Mary Jo Pugh, Dan R. Berlowitz, Maurice W. Dysken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Objectives: To examine prevalence and resident- and site-level factors associated with potential underuse, overuse, and inappropriate use of antidepressants in older Veterans Affairs (VA) Community Living Center (CLC) residents. Design: Longitudinal study. Setting: One hundred thirty-three VA CLCs. Participants: Three thousand six hundred ninety-two veterans aged 65 and older admitted between January 1, 2004, and June 3, 2005, with long stays (≥90 days). Measurements: Prevalence of potential underuse, inappropriate use, and overuse of antidepressants in residents with and without depression (as documented according to International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification, codes or Depression Rating Scale). Results: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors were the most commonly prescribed antidepressant. Of the 877 residents with depression, 25.4% did not receive an antidepressant, suggesting potential underuse. Of residents with depression who received antidepressants, 57.5% had potential inappropriate use due primarily to problems seen with drug-drug and drug-disease interactions. Of the 2,815 residents who did not have depression, 1,190 (42.3%) were prescribed one or more antidepressants; only 48 (4.0%) of these had a Food and Drug Administration-approved labeled indication, suggesting potential overuse. Overall, only 17.6% of antidepressant use was appropriate (324/1,844). The only consistent resident factor associated with potential underuse and overuse use was taking an antipsychotic without evidence of schizophrenia (underuse: adjusted relative risk ratio (ARRR)=0.56, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.33-0.94; overuse: adjusted odds ratio=1.52, 95% CI=1.21-1.91). Having moderate to severe pain (ARRR=1.54, 95% CI=1.08-2.20) and the prescribing of an anxiolytic or hypnotic (ARRR=1.33, 95% CI=1.02-1.74) increased the risk of potential inappropriate antidepressant use. Conclusion: Potential problems with the use of antidepressants were frequently observed in older U.S. veteran CLC residents. Future studies are needed to examine the true risks and benefits of antidepressant use in CLC and non-VA nursing homes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1412-1420
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • aged
  • depression
  • nursing homes
  • pharmacoepidemiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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