Medication regimen complexity in ambulatory older adults with heart failure

Clin Interv Aging. 2017 Apr 12;12:679-686. doi: 10.2147/CIA.S130832. eCollection 2017.


Purpose: Heart failure prevalence is increasing in older adults, and polypharmacy is a major problem in this population. We compared medication regimen complexity using the validated patient-level Medication Regimen Complexity Index (pMRCI) tool in "young-old" (60-74 years) versus "old-old" (75-89 years) patients with heart failure. We also compared pMRCI between patients with ischemic cardiomyopathy (ISCM) versus nonischemic cardiomyopathy (NISCM).

Patients and methods: Medication lists were retrospectively abstracted from the electronic medical records of ambulatory patients aged 60-89 years with heart failure. Medications were categorized into three types - heart failure prescription medications, other prescription medications, and over-the-counter (OTC) medications - and scored using the pMRCI tool.

Results: The study evaluated 145 patients (n=80 young-old, n=65 old-old, n=85 ISCM, n=60 NISCM, mean age 73±7 years, 64% men, 81% Caucasian). Mean total pMRCI scores (32.1±14.4, range 3-84) and total medication counts (13.3±4.8, range 2-30) were high for the entire cohort, of which 72% of patients were taking eleven or more total medications. Total and subtype pMRCI scores and medication counts did not differ significantly between the young-old and old-old groups, with the exception of OTC medication pMRCI score (6.2±4 young-old versus 7.8±5.8 old-old, P=0.04). With regard to heart failure etiology, total pMRCI scores and medication counts were significantly higher in patients with ISCM versus NISCM (pMRCI score 34.5±15.2 versus 28.8±12.7, P=0.009; medication count 14.1±4.9 versus 12.2±4.5, P=0.008), which was largely driven by other prescription medications.

Conclusion: Medication regimen complexity is high in older adults with heart failure, and differs based on heart failure etiology. Additional work is needed to address polypharmacy and to determine if medication regimen complexity influences adherence and clinical outcomes in this population.

Keywords: aged; elderly; geriatric; heart failure; medication complexity.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiomyopathies / drug therapy
  • Chronic Disease
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Adherence
  • Middle Aged
  • Polypharmacy*
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies