Background: Elderly persons are exposed to polypharmacy because of multiple chronic conditions. Many risk factors for polypharmacy have been identified including age, race/ethnicity, sex, educational achievement level, health status, and number of chronic diseases. However, drugs prescribed for individual diseases have not been analyzed.
Objective: The objective of this study was to analyze each common disease in the elderly with respect to prescribed drugs and polypharmacy.
Methods: A 1-year (January through December 2009) cross-sectional study was performed in which all drugs given to hospitalized elderly patients (age, >65 years) were investigated. Common diseases of the elderly were separated into disease groups including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, gastric ulcer, previous stroke, reflux esophagitis, diabetes mellitus, malignancy, osteoporosis, angina pectoris, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, dementia, and depression.
Results: Among 1768 elderly patients, the mean (range) age of study patients was 78 (65 to 100) years. The mean (SD) number of diseases was 7.7 (3.4), and the number of drugs overall was 4.9 (3.6). The number of drugs and prevalence of polypharmacy were hypertension, 5.2 (3.9 [51%]); hyperlipidemia, 5.6 (3.8 [58%]); gastric ulcer, 5.4 (3.8 [53%]); previous stroke, 5.8 (3.2 [61%]); reflux esophagitis, 5.6 (3.8 [40%]), diabetes mellitus, 5.6 (3.1 [54%]); malignancy, 4.1 (3.1 [37%]); osteoporosis, 5.4 (3.4 [45%]); angina pectoris, 5.7 (3.6 [42%]); congestive heart failure, 6.1 (4.0 [60%]); chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 5.0 (3.5 [53%]); dementia, 5.1 (3.2 [52%]); and depression, 7.0 (4.2 [73%]).
Conclusions: When assessing the risk of polypharmacy, physicians should carefully consider the type of any chronic disease. Elderly patients with multiple diseases may be subjected to further polypharmacy.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier HS Journals, Inc. All rights reserved.