Objective: To examine the drug consumption and the extent of polypharmacy (defined as daily intake of three or more drugs) among 75-year-old persons living in their own homes and to point out potential problems associated with it.
Methods: Information on the intake of all drugs was collected from 492 subjects randomly selected. The subjects were interviewed at home, and their drug storage was examined. Information was also collected from the general practitioners (GPs) and from prescription databases. Database information comprised prescribed drugs used by the study population and the background population.
Results: Eighty-seven percent of the study population received prescribed drugs and 72% used over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Only 3% of the subjects did not take any drugs. Eighty percent of females and 60% of males used central nervous system (CNS) drugs, the most commonly used category. The subjects took on average 4.2 different prescribed drugs and 2.5 OTC drugs. Sixty percent used three or more prescribed drugs and 34% used five or more. Thirty percent used three or more OTC drugs. Seventeen percent had prescribed drugs not in use at the time of the examination in their drug storage. Twenty-five percent of the prescribed drugs were used without the GPs' knowledge. Thirty-one percent of the study population received prescribed drugs from two or more physicians. Potential drug interactions with clinical significance were found among 15.3% of the participants and were positively correlated to polypharmacy.
Conclusion: Almost all 75-year-old persons receive drugs. The observed polypharmacy may increase drug-related risks. The discrepancies between the GPs' knowledge of their patients' medication and the actual intake may involve a potential risk. A better registration of the patients' total medication and the implementation of a common medication database for the use of all involved physicians may improve medication and reduce risks.