Polypharmacy in the Elderly: A Marker of Increased Risk of Mortality in a Population-Based Prospective Study (NEDICES)

Candelas Gómez, Saturio Vega-Quiroga, Félix Bermejo-Pareja, María José Medrano, Elan D. Louis, Julián Benito-León

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Little information is available on the potential association between polypharmacy and risk of mortality. Objective: To determine in a population-based study whether polypharmacy is associated with increased risk of mortality in elderly persons. Methods: In this population-based, prospective study of 5,052 people aged 65 years and older (Neurological Disorders in Central Spain), current medications were recorded. Cox proportional hazards models, adjusted for sociodemographics and comorbidity factors, were used to assess the risk of death up to 13.3 years later, comparing the polypharmacy group (≥6 drugs) to those who were taking 1-5 drugs and those in a nonmedicated group (0 drugs). Results: Out of 5,052 participants, 2,550 (50.5%) died over a median follow-up of 6.5 years, including 361 (28.8%) deaths among 931 nonmedicated participants, 1,946 (51.4%) deaths among 3,787 participants taking 1-5 drugs daily, and 243 (72.8%) among 334 participants on polypharmacy. In an unadjusted Cox model, risk of mortality was increased in participants on polypharmacy [hazard ratio (HR) = 2.78, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.36-3.27, p < 0.001) and in those taking between 1 and 5 drugs (HR = 1.47, 95% CI: 1.31-1.64, p < 0.001) versus those who were nonmedicated (reference group). In a Cox model that adjusted for a variety of demographic factors and comorbidities, HR remained increased in participants on polypharmacy (HR = 1.83, 95% CI: 1.51-2.21, p < 0.001). Conclusion: This study provides evidence that polypharmacy is associated with increased risk of mortality in elderly people. The extent to which polypharmacy is the proximate cause rather than a marker of this increase risk remains to be determined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-309
Number of pages9
JournalGerontology
Volume61
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 22 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Elderly people
  • Epidemiology
  • Mortality
  • Polypharmacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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