Polypharmacy and Frailty: What's the Link?

Researchers analyzed 2,000 participants with aged between 50 and 75, with 11 years of follow-up
Researchers analyzed 2,000 participants with aged between 50 and 75, with 11 years of follow-up

Older adults who take multiple medications may be twice as likely to become frail in a relatively short period of time (3 years) compared to those who take fewer medications.

Researchers analyzed 2,000 participants in the ESTHER (Epidemiological Study on Chances for Prevention, Early Detection, and Optimized Therapy of Chronic Diseases at Old Age) study, with follow-ups at 2, 5, 8, and 11 years. Participants were aged between 50 and 75 when the study began. 

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Participants were separated into three categories, those who took 0 to 4 medicines (non-polypharmacy), those who took 5 to 9 medicines (polypharmacy), and those who took 10 or more medicines (hyper-polypharmacy). Prescription and over-the-counter drugs (OTC) were included.

After adjusting for differences in patient characteristics, the researchers found that those in the polypharmacy or hyper-polypharmacy group were more likely to be frail, with those who took 5 to 9 medicines being 1.5 times more likely to become frail within 3 years compared to the 0 to 4 medicine group. While those who took 10 or more medicines were twice as likely to become frail within 3 years than those who took less than five.

The authors of the study state their findings reiterate the importance of clinicians being fully informed about all the medicines patients are taking, prescription and OTC. They concluded that reducing multiple avoidable prescriptions for older adults may also lessen the risk for frailty and other negative outcomes.

For more information visit Americangeriatrics.org.