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Original Article

Med Arch. 2023; 77(6): 471-476

Association Between Multi-Morbidities and Polypharmacy Among Older Adults at an Academic Medical Center in Saudi Arabia

Assim AlAbdulKader, Shahad Alsheikh, Rizam Alghamdi, Khalid AlHarkan, Nouf AlShamlan, Hatem Alqahtani, Feras Al Awad, Raed Alotaibi.


Background: Polypharmacy, or the routine use of five or more medications, can result in impacting patients' quality of life. Objective: to examine the association between multi-morbidities and polypharmacy, and to examine prescription practices in the elderly. Methods: This is a retrospective cross-sectional study. Data were gathered from electronic medical records (EMR) at King Fahad University Hospital (KFHU) and the Family & Community Medicine Center (FCMC) of Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University (IAU), between January 1, 2019, and December 31, 2020. We included individuals aged 60 and above with at least one dispensed prescription in 2019 and 2020. Of the 76,216 patient records reviewed, 5,060 met the inclusion criteria. Polypharmacy was defined as a monthly average of five or more prescribed medications. The prevalence of polypharmacy was calculated by year, sex, and age group, and findings were summarized using mean medication numbers and standard deviations for each stratum. An app using R programming language was developed to help visualize patients' medication histories through interactive plots. Results: Polypharmacy prevalence was 46% in 2019 and 44.6% in 2020. The mean and standard deviation of medications per person was 5.17 (3.42) in 2019 and 5.04 (3.37) in 2020. Females had a higher average number of medications than males, 5.17 (3.47) vs 5.04 (3.32). The age group of 80-85 had the highest number of medications at 5.6 (3.6), while those aged 90 and above had the lowest number at 4.48 (2.64). The presence of comorbidities was positively associated with the mean monthly medication count (P value < 0.01). Conclusion: Our study revealed a high prevalence of polypharmacy among elderly patients at KFHU/FCMC, and a positive association with multi-morbidities. Consequently, measures must be taken to mitigate this globally emerging issue's impact and rapid progression.

Key words: polypharmacy, prevalence, geriatrics, older adults, multimorbidity.

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