ObjectivePolypharmacy is common in older patients but relationships between polypharmacy and common co-morbid conditions have not been elucidated. Our goal was to determine relationships between daily oral medication use and common co-morbid disease dyads and triads using comprehensive medication and diagnostic data from a national sample of nursing homes (NH).
DesignRetrospective, cross-sectional study.
SettingNationally representative sample of U.S. Nursing Homes.
ParticipantsNationally representative sample of long-term stay residents (n = 11734, 75% women) aged 65 years or older.
MeasurementsDiagnosis and medication data were analyzed. Proportion of daily oral medication intake attributed to treatment of common two-(dyads) and three-disease (triad) combinations and "health maintenance" agents (vitamins, dietary supplements, stool softeners without related diagnoses) was determined.
ResultsOlder NH residents received slightly >8 oral medications/day with the number related to number of medical diagnoses (p < .0001). One third of chronic oral medication intake/day (excluding health maintenance agents) could be attributed to dyad combinations and about half to triad combinations despite an average of 5 other diagnoses. Triads were comprised of hypertension +/- arthritis +/- vascular disease, +/-depression, +/- osteoporosis +/- gastroesophageal reflux disease and +/- diabetes. Health maintenance agents accounted for 15-17% of daily oral medication intake (1.4 medications) such that almost two-thirds of daily oral medications were attributable to disease triads plus health maintenance. Fewer medications were prescribed for NH residents over age 85 (decreased ACE inhibitor and HMG CoA reductase inhibitor USE (p < .001)) while use of Alzheimer medications was higher (p < .01).
ConclusionsA large fraction of daily oral medications were attributed to management of common co-morbid disease dyads and triads. Efforts to reduce polypharmacy and unwanted medication interactions could focus on regimens for common co-morbid dyads and triads in varying populations.