Use of prescription drugs in the older adult population-a nationwide pharmacoepidemiological study

Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2019 Aug;75(8):1125-1133. doi: 10.1007/s00228-019-02669-2. Epub 2019 Apr 4.


Purpose: Multi-morbidity and polypharmacy are common among older people. It is essential to provide a better understanding of the complexity of prescription drug use among older adults to optimise rational pharmacotherapy. Population-based utilisation data in this age group is limited. Using the Danish nationwide health registries, we aimed to characterise drug use among Danish individuals ≥ 60 years.

Methods: This is a descriptive population-based study assessing drug prescription patterns in 2015 in the full Danish population aged ≥ 60 years. The use of specific therapeutic subgroups and chemical subgroups and its dependence on age were described using descriptive statistics. Profiles of drug combination patterns were evaluated using latent class analysis.

Results: We included 1,424,775 residents (median age 70 years, 53% women). Of all the older adults, 89% filled at least one prescription during 2015. The median number of drug groups used was five per person. The most used single drug groups were paracetamol and analogues (34%), statins (33%) and platelet aggregation inhibitors (24%). Eighteen drug profiles with different drug combination patterns were identified. One drug profile with expected use of zero drugs and 11 drug profiles expected to receive more than five different therapeutic subgroup drugs were identified.

Conclusion: The use of drugs is extensive both at the population level and increasing with age at an individual level. Separating the population into different homogenous groups related to drug use resulted in 18 different drug profiles, of which 11 drug profiles received on average more than five different therapeutic subgroup drugs.

Keywords: Drug profiles; Drug utilisation; Older adults; Pharmacoepidemiology; Prescription drugs.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data
  • Drug Utilization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pharmacoepidemiology / statistics & numerical data*
  • Polypharmacy*
  • Prescription Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Registries / statistics & numerical data


  • Prescription Drugs