Changes in drug prescribing to Italian community-dwelling elderly people: the EPIFARM-Elderly Project 2000-2010

Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2014 Apr;70(4):437-43. doi: 10.1007/s00228-013-1621-6. Epub 2014 Jan 8.


Purpose: To investigate the changes in the last decade (2000-2010) in drug prescribing among community-dwelling elderly people aged 65-94 years, in relation to age and sex.

Methods: We analyzed the data of nearly two million subjects ranging in age from 65 to 94 years recorded in the Drug Administrative Database of the Lombardy Region (Italy) from 2000 to 2010. Associations between drug use (at least one drug, one chronic drug, polypharmacy or chronic polypharmacy) and age, sex, and year of prescription were analyzed by logistic regression analysis. We also analyzed differences in changes linked to sex and age.

Results: Between 2000 and 2010, the prescriptions of at least one drug or one chronic drug increased by 2 % (from 88.0 to 90.3 %; p < 0.0001) and 8 % (from 73.8 to 82.0 %; p < 0.0001), respectively, while the mean number of packages/person/year rose from 34.6 [standard deviation (SD) 32.4] to 48.5 (SD 42.2). During this same period, there was a 10 % increase in the prevalence of elderly people exposed to polypharmacy (≥5 different active substances) (from 42.8 to 52.7 %; p < 0.0001), and the prevalence of those exposed to chronic polypharmacy (≥5 different chronic drugs) doubled (from 14.9 to 28.5 %; p < 0.0001). Males were less frequently treated than females, except for chronic polypharmacy. People aged ≥80 years showed the largest increase in all prescribing patterns. Drug consumption in ATC groups A, H, and N (women) and in B and C (men) increased most, with the greatest absolute differences occurring in the consumption of proton pump inhibitors (31.1 %), platelet aggregation inhibitors (30.1 %), and statins (23.8 %).

Conclusion: Prescriptions to community-dwelling elderly people have increased substantially during the last 10 years. Although this might indicate an improvement in care, the large increase in the number of elderly people exposed to polypharmacy and chronic polypharmacy should be carefully analyzed in terms of quality of care, patient safety, and costs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Databases, Factual
  • Drug Prescriptions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Polypharmacy
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Prevalence
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Sex Factors