Polypharmacy: Medication Changes as a Measure of Complexity

September 13, 2013 | Aging Services Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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​Simply counting the total number of medications that an older adult is taking “does not capture the potential complications (and benefits) that occur when medications are started, stopped, and changed over time,” write the authors of a research letter in the September 9, 2013, JAMA Internal Medicine. The complexity of a medication regimen may lead to confusion about proper use and difficulties with adherence. Thus, the authors examined medication changes as a measure of medication complexity in a national sample of older veterans who were taking at least one medication; medication changes were classified into six types. At baseline, the subjects took a median of four long-term medications. A year later, the median was still four medications; 77% of the study population took the same number of drugs that they had taken at baseline or only one more or one fewer.

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