Polypharmacy among inpatients aged 70 years or older in Australia

Hubbard, Ruth E., Peel, Nancye M., Scott, Ian A., Martin, Jennifer H., Smith, Alesha, Pillans, Peter I., Poudel, Arjun and Gray, Leonard C. (2015) Polypharmacy among inpatients aged 70 years or older in Australia. Medical Journal of Australia, 202 7: 373-378. doi:10.5694/mja13.00172

Author Hubbard, Ruth E.
Peel, Nancye M.
Scott, Ian A.
Martin, Jennifer H.
Smith, Alesha
Pillans, Peter I.
Poudel, Arjun
Gray, Leonard C.
Title Polypharmacy among inpatients aged 70 years or older in Australia
Journal name Medical Journal of Australia   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1326-5377
Publication date 2015
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.5694/mja13.00172
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 202
Issue 7
Start page 373
End page 378
Total pages 6
Place of publication Strawberry Hills, NSW, Australia
Publisher Australasian Medical Publishing Company
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Objectives:  To investigate medication changes for older patients admitted to hospital and to explore associations between patient characteristics and polypharmacy.

Design:  Prospective cohort study.

Participants and setting:  Patients aged 70 years or older admitted to general medical units of 11 acute care hospitals in two Australian states between July 2005 and May 2010. All patients were assessed using the interRAI assessment system for acute care.

Main outcome measures:  Measures of physical, cognitive and psychosocial functioning; and number of regular prescribed medications categorised into three groups: non-polypharmacy (0–4 drugs), polypharmacy (5–9 drugs) and hyperpolypharmacy (≥ 10 drugs).

Results:  Of 1220 patients who were recruited for the study, medication records at admission were available for 1216. Mean age was 81.3 years (SD, 6.8 years), and 659 patients (54.2%) were women. For the 1187 patients with complete medication records on admission and discharge, there was a small but statistically significant increase in mean number of regular medications per day between admission and discharge (7.1 v 7.6), while the prevalence of medications such as statins (459 [38.7%] v 457 [38.5%] patients), opioid analgesics (155 [13.1%] v 166 [14.0%] patients), antipsychotics (59 [5.0%] v 65 [5.5%] patients) and benzodiazepines (122 [10.3%] v 135 [11.4%] patients) did not change significantly. Being in a higher polypharmacy category was significantly associated with increase in comorbidities (odds ratio [OR], 1.27; 95% CI, 1.20–1.34), presence of pain (OR, 1.31; 1.05–1.64), dyspnoea (OR, 1.64; 1.30–2.07) and dependence in terms of instrumental activities of daily living (OR, 1.70; 1.20–2.41). Hyperpolypharmacy was observed in 290/1216 patients (23.8%) at admission and 336/1187 patients (28.3%) on discharge, and the proportion of preventive medication in the hyperpolypharmacy category at both points in time remained high (1209/3371 [35.9%] at admission v 1508/4117 [36.6%] at discharge).

Conclusions:  Polypharmacy is common among older people admitted to general medical units of Australian hospitals, with no clinically meaningful change to the number or classification (symptom control, prevention or both) of drugs made by treating physicians.
Keyword Polypharmacy
Patient characteristics
Hospital treatment
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Medicine Publications
School of Pharmacy Publications
UQ Diamantina Institute Publications
Version Filter Type
Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 9 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 14 times in Scopus Article | Citations
Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Created: Tue, 23 Jun 2015, 01:05:38 EST by System User on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service