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Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2008;120(23-24):733-41. doi: 10.1007/s00508-008-1089-z.

Polypharmacy and inappropriate prescribing in elderly internal-medicine patients in Austria.

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Department of Cardiology and Internal Intensive Care, Salzburger Landeskliniken, Paracelsus Private Medical University Salzburg, Austria.



The aim of the study was to assess the prevalence of polypharmacy and inappropriate drug use in elderly internal-medicine patients in one Austrian center and to define the impact of these and other identified predictors on the occurrence of adverse drug events.


All patients>or=75 years admitted to selected internal wards of a university hospital were included in a monocentric prospective cohort study over a period of three months. The pre-admission medication of the patients was analyzed with respect to appropriateness by a multidisciplinary team consisting of pharmacists and physicians trained in internal medicine. The medication was evaluated for the occurrence of adverse drug events.


A total of 543 patients were analyzed (median age 82 years; 60.2% female). The mean number of drugs taken was 7.5+/-3.8, with women taking significantly more drugs than men (7.8 vs. 6.8, P=0.013). Overall, 58.4% of the patients fulfilled the given criteria for polypharmacy (>6 drugs). The following factors were associated with polypharmacy: female sex, need for nursing care, high number of discharge diagnoses and high Charlson comorbidity score. Unnecessary drugs were found prescribed in 36.3% of all patients, drugs to avoid (Beers criteria) in 30.1%, duplication in 7.6%, wrong dosage in 23.4% and possible drug-drug interactions in 65.8%. Adverse drug events were identified in 17.8% of the patients (97/543), among whom the adverse drug event was the reason for hospital admission in 56.7% of the cases and a drug-drug interaction was involved in 18.7%. Risk factors for adverse drug events were female sex, polymorbidity, renal dysfunction and inappropriate prescribing.


Polypharmacy, inappropriate prescribing and adverse drug events were highly prevalent in a cohort of elderly internal-medicine patients in Austria. To improve drug safety in this high-risk population, appropriate prescribing might be more important than simply reducing the number of prescribed drugs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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