American Geriatrics Society

View all recommendations from this society

Released February 27, 2014; revised April 23, 2015

Avoid using prescription appetite stimulants or high-calorie supplements for treatment of anorexia or cachexia in older adults; instead, optimize social supports, discontinue medications that may interfere with eating, provide appealing food and feeding assistance, and clarify patient goals and expectations.

Unintentional weight loss is a common problem for medically ill or frail elderly. Although high-calorie supplements increase weight in older people, there is no evidence that they affect other important clinical outcomes, such as quality of life, mood, functional status or survival. Use of megestrol acetate results in minimal improvements in appetite and weight gain, no improvement in quality of life or survival, and increased risk of thrombotic events, fluid retention and death. In patients who take megestrol acetate, one in 12 will have an increase in weight and one in 23 will have an adverse event leading to death. The 2012 AGS Beers criteria lists megestrol acetate and cyproheptadine as medications to avoid in older adults. Systematic reviews of cannabinoids, dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids (DHA and EPA), thalidomide and anabolic steroids, have not identified adequate evidence for the efficacy and safety of these agents for weight gain. Mirtazapine is likely to cause weight gain or increased appetite when used to treat depression, but there is little evidence to support its use to promote appetite and weight gain in the absence of depression.


These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician.

How The List Was Created

1-5: The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) established a work group chaired by the Vice Chair of Clinical Practice and Models of Care Committee (CPMC). Work group members were drawn from that committee, as well as the Ethics, Ethnogeriatrics and Quality and Performance Measurement (QPMC) committees. AGS members were invited to submit feedback and recommendations as to what they thought should be included in the list via an electronic survey. The workgroup first narrowed the list down to the top 10 potential tests or procedures. The workgroup then reviewed the evidence and sought expert advice to further refine the list to five recommendations, which were then reviewed and approved by the AGS Executive Committee and the Chairs/Vice Chairs of CPMC, Ethics and QPMC.

6-10: The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) used the same work group from its first list to develop its second list. The group was chaired by the Chair of Clinical Practice and Models of Care Committee (CPMC). Work group members were drawn from that committee, as well as the Ethics, Ethnogeriatrics and Quality and Performance Measurement (QPMC) committees. AGS members were invited to submit feedback and recommendations as to what they thought should be included in a Choosing Wisely® list via an electronic survey. The workgroup then narrowed the list down and reviewed the evidence, seeking expert advice to further refine the list to five recommendations, which were then reviewed and approved by the AGS Executive Committee and the Chairs/Vice Chairs of CPMC, Ethics and QPMC.

On April 23, 2015, AGS revised items 2,3,6,7,8 and 10. Read more about these changes and rationale.

Sources

Hanson LC, Ersek M, Gilliam R, Carey TS. Oral feeding options for people with dementia: a systematic review. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2011;59:463–72.

Milne AC, Potter J, Vivanti A, Avenell A. Protein and energy supplementation in elderly people at risk from malnutrition. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009Apr 15;2:CD003288.DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003288.pub3.

Ruiz Garcia V, López-Briz E, Carbonell Sanchis R, Gonzalvez Perales JL, Bort-Marti S. Megestrol acetate for treatment of anorexia-cachexia syndrome. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Mar 28;3:CD004310.

American Geriatrics Society 2012 Beers Criteria Update Expert Panel. American Geriatrics Society updated Beers Criteria for potentially inappropriate medication use in older adults.J Am Geriatr Soc. 2012 Apr;60(4):616–31.

Mazotta P, Jeney CM. Anorexia-cachexia syndrome: a systematic review of the role of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids in the management of symptoms, survival, and quality of life. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2009;37:1069–77.

Dewey A, Baughan C, Dean TP, Higgins B, Johnson I. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, an omega-3 fatty acid from fish oils) for the treatment of cancer cachexia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jan 24;1:CD004597.

Reid J, Mills M, Cantwell M, Cardwell CR, Murray LJ, Donnelly M. Thalidomide for managing cancer cachexia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012 Apr 18;4:CD008664.

Yavuzsen T, Davis MP, Walsh D, LeGrand S, Lagman R. Systematic review of the treatment of cancer-associated anorexia and weight loss. J Clin Oncol. 2005;23:8500–11.

Watanabe N, Omori IM, Nakagawa A, Cipriani A, Barbui C, Churchill R, Furukawa TA. Mirtazapine versus other antidepressive agents for depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Dec 7;12:CD006528.

Fox CB, Treadway AK, Blaszczyk, Sleeper RB. Megestrol acetate and mirtazapine for the treatment of unplanned weight loss in the elderly. Pharmacotherapy. 2009;29(4):383–97.