19.3. Polypharmacy is a problem in drug treatment of elderly persons

Public examination of a doctoral dissertation in the field of social pharmacy

Doctoral candidate MSc (Pharm) Johanna Jyrkkä

Time and venue 19.3.2011 at 12 noon, Mediteknia Auditorium, Kuopio campus

One in four of elderly persons are using ten or more drugs. This epidemiologic study examined the changes in drug use and polypharmacy between the years 1998 and 2007 among elderly persons aged 75 years and older living in the city of Kuopio, Finland.

Quantity of drug use has remained steady

Compared to previous decades there were no increases in the number of drugs used during the 2000s.This calls for more attention on the content and quality of drug treatment instead of quantity of drugs used. In order to achieve optimal drug treatment tailored guidelines for the care of elderly persons are needed in health care.

During the study period an increase was observed in the use of antithrombotic agents, vitamins and mineral supplements, whereas the use of nervous system drugs decreased slightly. The average number of drugs in use was seven for home-living and ten for institutionalized elderly persons.

Polypharmacy is associated with several health problems

This study observed an imbalance between the number of drugs in use and number of diagnosed diseases, as those with polypharmacy used about three drugs per diagnosed disease. Of specific diseases, obstructive pulmonary diseases, heart diseases, diabetes, depression and pain were associated with polypharmacy. In addition, advanced age, female gender and poor self-reported health status predicted concomitant use of ten or more drugs.

The use of ten or more drugs was more prevalent among those elderly persons who also had nutritional deficiencies, functional inability and cognitive impairments. In addition, an increased mortality was found among those having ten or more drugs in use.

The findings of this study support the idea of regular assessments of medication among the elderly as an integral part of comprehensive care conducted in multiprofessional teams.

The research was conducted in the Kuopio Research Centre of Geriatric Care at the University of Eastern Finland.

The doctoral dissertation of MSc (Pharm) Johanna Jyrkkä, entitled Drug use and polypharmacy in elderly persons will be examined at the Faculty of Health Sciences. The opponent in the public examination will be Docent Harriet Finne-Soveri of the National Institute for Health and Welfare, and the custos will be Professor Hannes Enlund of the Finnish Medicines Agency.

Photo available for download at http://www.uef.fi/uef/vaitoskuvat

Contact: Johanna Jyrkkä, tel. 040 556 6210, johanna.jyrkka@uef.fi

Publishing year: 2011

Back to this years article listing