A dataset quantifying polypharmacy in the United States

Sci Data. 2017 Oct 31;4:170167. doi: 10.1038/sdata.2017.167.


Polypharmacy is increasingly common in the United States, and contributes to the substantial burden of drug-related morbidity. Yet real-world polypharmacy patterns remain poorly characterized. We have counted the incidence of multi-drug combinations observed in four billion patient-months of outpatient prescription drug claims from 2007-2014 in the Truven Health MarketScan® Databases. Prescriptions are grouped into discrete windows of concomitant drug exposure, which are used to count exposure incidences for combinations of up to five drug ingredients or ATC drug classes. Among patients taking any prescription drug, half are exposed to two or more drugs, and 5% are exposed to 8 or more. The most common multi-drug combinations treat manifestations of metabolic syndrome. Patients are exposed to unique drug combinations in 10% of all exposure windows. Our analysis of multi-drug exposure incidences provides a detailed summary of polypharmacy in a large US cohort, which can prioritize common drug combinations for future safety and efficacy studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural