Polytherapy and the risk of potentially inappropriate prescriptions (PIPs) among elderly and very elderly patients in three different settings (hospital, community, long-term care facilities) of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, Italy: are the very elderly at higher risk of PIPs?

Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2016 Sep;25(9):1070-8. doi: 10.1002/pds.4026. Epub 2016 May 17.


Purpose: The aim of this point-prevalence study was to assess the occurrence of polypharmacy and hyperpolypharmacy and the risk of potentially inappropriate prescriptions (PIPs) among elderly and very elderly patients in different health-care settings of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region in the North-East of Italy.

Methods: Prescription pattern of elderly (65-79 years) and very elderly (>79 years) patients in three different health-care settings [hospitals, general practitioners, and long-term care facilities (LTCFs)] was assessed in March 2014, and PIPs were assessed according to the Beers criteria. Other situations at potentially high risk were checked.

Results: A total of 1582 patients (hospital, n = 528; outpatients, n = 527; nursing homes, n = 527) were included. Very elderly were more represented in hospitals (60.4%) and LTCFs (77.1%) than among general practitioners (37.6%). Polypharmacy and hyperpolypharmacy rates ranged 57.7-73.7% and 9.7-15.6%, respectively. The most frequently prescribed drugs were the proton pump inhibitors, whereas the most common PIPs resulted the benzodiazepines. Multinomial regression analysis showed that female sex, age > 79 years, hyperpolypharmacy, and chronic kidney disease were associated with the risk of having ≥2 PIPs. Two situations at high risk of PIPs not contemplated by the Beers criteria were recurrent in the study population and concerned the statins and metformin.

Conclusions: Polypharmacy and hyperpolypharmacy among elderly and very elderly are strictly associated with the risk of multiple PIPs. The findings offer the opportunity to remark that improvement of the knowledge of safe drug use is generally needed in aging societies and may become of utmost relevance among health-care workers operating in LTCFs. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Keywords: elderly patients; pharmacoepidemiology; polypharmacy; potentially inappropriate prescriptions.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • General Practitioners / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitals / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Inappropriate Prescribing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Italy
  • Long-Term Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Outpatients / statistics & numerical data
  • Polypharmacy*
  • Potentially Inappropriate Medication List*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors