Prescribed-drug utilization and polypharmacy in a general population in Greece: association with sociodemographic, health needs, health-services utilization, and lifestyle factors
Objective: To describe the pattern of polypharmacy (PP) among older men and to relate medication use to personal, social and medical information. Methods: Information on medication use, both prescribed and `over the counter' (OTC), was collected from 1906 men, aged 56–75 years, observed on up to four occasions since 1979 in a community survey – the Caerphilly prospective study. On each visit, a variety of questionnaires regarding personal, social and medical factors were completed, and a brief medical examination was conducted. Medication use was related to some of the questionnaire information and biological measurements collected in order to identify factors associated with PP. Results: A quarter of the men (475/1906) reported using three or more prescription-only medicines (PoMs), with 9% (163) using five or more (major PP). PP was related to increasing age, lower social class, not being in employment, smoking and obesity (high body mass index). Men with a medical history, especially of high blood pressure, angina, heart attack, or hospital admission in the last 5 years, comprised a large proportion of those on major PP. Higher levels of PoM use by this group had been apparent over the previous 14 years. Men on PP reported lower levels of self-rated health and higher rates of non-PoM use. Cardiovascular and, to a lesser extent, central nervous and respiratory system drugs were the main medicines used by men on major PP. Conclusions: PP is common among men aged 56–75 years in Caerphilly, South Wales. It is related to many personal, social and medical factors, and associated with lower self-rated health status and greater use of non-PoMs. Cardiovascular medicines are the main contributor to major PP. Those on PP require regular review and, where possible, PP should be reduced as it has many potential adverse effects.