Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in the older adult

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Annually, approximately 90 million prescriptions are filled for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with the number prescribed for older adults approximately three times higher than for younger adults. This article examines the benefits and risk of NSAID use in older adults.

Data sources:

Electronic data collection of research studies, evidence-based reviews, consensus statements, and guidelines related to the purpose of this article were analyzed if published between 2000 and 2013 in English from Ovid, MEDLINE, and PubMed databases.


While NSAIDs are commonly used to treat pain and inflammation in older adults, strong consideration must be given to the potential adverse effects. A lack of consistency in the guidelines regarding NSAID use poses further challenges for clinicians in the selection of the best pharmacological approach. When prescribing NSAIDs, adverse events, polypharmacy, comorbidities, and treatment guidelines must be considered. NSAIDs are an appropriate option for pain management in select older adults, often after a trial of acetaminophen and if benefits outweigh risks. Alternative pharmacological and nonpharmacological therapies may be more appropriate in many older adults.

Implications for practice:

The challenge for clinicians prescribing NSAIDs in the treatment of pain in older adults is to utilize safe, individualized, and evidenced-based pain management regimens.

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