Importance: Prescription and over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements are commonly used, alone and together, among older adults. However, the effect of recent regulatory and market forces on these patterns is not known.
Objectives: To characterize changes in the prevalence of medication use, including concurrent use of prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements, and to quantify the frequency and types of potential major drug-drug interactions.
Design, setting, and participants: Descriptive analyses of a longitudinal, nationally representative sample of community-dwelling older adults 62 to 85 years old. In-home interviews with direct medication inspection were conducted in 2005-2006 and again in 2010-2011. The dates of the analysis were March to November 2015. We defined medication use as the use of at least 1 prescription or over-the-counter medication or dietary supplement at least daily or weekly and defined concurrent use as the regular use of at least 2 medications. We used Micromedex to identify potential major drug-drug interactions.
Main outcomes and measures: Population estimates of the prevalence of medication use (in aggregate and by therapeutic class), concurrent use, and major drug-drug interactions.
Results: The study cohort comprised 2351 participants in 2005-2006 and 2206 in 2010-2011. Their mean age was 70.9 years in 2005-2006 and 71.4 years in 2010-2011. Fifty-three percent of participants were female in 2005-2006, and 51.6% were female in 2010-2011. The use of at least 1 prescription medication slightly increased from 84.1% in 2005-2006 to 87.7% in 2010-2011 (P = .003). Concurrent use of at least 5 prescription medications increased from 30.6% to 35.8% (P = .02). While the use of over-the-counter medications declined from 44.4% to 37.9%, the use of dietary supplements increased from 51.8% to 63.7% (P < .001 for both). There were clinically significant increases in the use of statins (33.8% to 46.2%), antiplatelets (32.8% to 43.0%), and omega-3 fish oils (4.7% to 18.6%) (P < .05 for all). In 2010-2011, approximately 15.1% of older adults were at risk for a potential major drug-drug interaction compared with an estimated 8.4% in 2005-2006 (P < .001). Most of these interacting regimens involved medications and dietary supplements increasingly used in 2010-2011.
Conclusions and relevance: In this study, the use of prescription medications and dietary supplements, and concurrent use of interacting medications, has increased since 2005, with 15% of older adults potentially at risk for a major drug-drug interaction. Improving safety with the use of multiple medications has the potential to reduce preventable adverse drug events associated with medications commonly used among older adults.