Background: Polypharmacy-the concurrent prescription of multiple medications-is a salient consideration in the care of older patients with heart failure. Little is known, however, about the complexity and financial burden of medical therapy in this population.
Methods: This is a study of the chronic medications prescribed at hospital discharge to patients 65 years or older hospitalized for heart failure in 2 cohorts separated by 27 months (April 1998-March 1999, n = 31 602; July 2000-June 2001, n = 30,774). Three utilization measures were assessed: the number of drugs, the estimated number of doses per day, and the estimated annual costs using the same cost standard (2003 average wholesale prices) for both samples. Utilization associated with population characteristics and between time frames was assessed in multivariable models.
Results: In 1998-1999, the mean number of drugs was 6.8, representing 10.1 doses daily at a cost of 3142 dollars/y, increasing to 7.5 drugs, 11.1 doses daily and 3823 dollars/y in 2000-2001 (P<.001 for all comparisons). After adjustment, the number of drugs increased by 12% and costs by 24% between samples. Factors associated with greater complexity and cost included diabetes (1.6 additional drugs and 1094 dollars/y additional cost), prior revascularization (1.3 drugs, 1154 dollars/y), and chronic lung disease (1.2 drugs, 814 dollars/y). Younger age and white race were also associated with more drugs and higher costs.
Conclusions: The drug treatment of older patients with heart failure is characterized by rapidly increasing complexity and cost. Efforts should be directed toward optimizing the complex drug regimens of elderly patients with heart failure and multiple comorbidities.