Changes in prescribed medicines in older patients with multimorbidity and polypharmacy in general practice

  • Background: Treatment complexity rises in line with the number of drugs, single doses, and administration methods, thereby threatening patient adherence. Patients with multimorbidity often need flexible, individualised treatment regimens, but alterations during the course of treatment may further increase complexity. The objective of our study was to explore medication changes in older patients with multimorbidity and polypharmacy in general practice. Methods: We retrospectively analysed data from the cluster-randomised PRIMUM trial (PRIoritisation of MUltimedication in Multimorbidity) conducted in 72 general practices. We developed an algorithm for active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), strength, dosage, and administration method to assess changes in physician-reported medication data during two intervals (baseline to six-months: ∆1; six- to nine-months: ∆2), analysed them descriptively at prescription and patient levels, and checked for intervention effects. Results: Of 502 patients (median age 72 years, 52% female), 464 completed the study. Changes occurred in 98.6% of patients (changes were 19% more likely in the intervention group): API changes during ∆1 and ∆2 occurred in 414 (82.5%) and 338 (67.3%) of patients, dosage alterations in 372 (74.1%) and 296 (59.2%), and changes in API strength in 158 (31.5%) and 138 (27.5%) respectively. Administration method changed in 79 (16%) of patients in both ∆1 and ∆2. Simvastatin, metformin and aspirin were most frequently subject to alterations. Conclusion: Medication regimens in older patients with multimorbidity and polypharmacy changed frequently. These are mostly due to discontinuations and dosage alterations, followed by additions and restarts. These findings cast doubt on the effectiveness of cross-sectional assessments of medication and support longitudinal assessments where possible. Trial registration: 1. Prospective registration: Trial registration number: NCT01171339; Name of registry:; Date of registration: July 27, 2010; Date of enrolment of the first participant to the trial: August 12, 2010. 2. Peer reviewed trial registration: Trial registration number: ISRCTN99526053; Name of registry: Controlled Trials; Date of registration: August 31, 2010; Date of enrolment of the first participant to the trial: August 12, 2010.

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Author:Fiona von Buedingen, Marc S. Hammer, Andreas D. Meid, Walter E. MüllerGND, Ferdinand M. GerlachORCiDGND, Christiane MuthORCiDGND
Pubmed Id:
Parent Title (English):BMC family practice
Publisher:BioMed Central ; Springer
Place of publication:London ; Berlin ; Heidelberg
Document Type:Article
Year of Completion:2018
Date of first Publication:2018/07/28
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2018/10/30
Tag:General practice; Medication changes; Multimorbidity; Multiple chronic conditions; Older adults; Polypharmacy
Issue:1, Art. 131
Page Number:11
First Page:1
Last Page:11
Open Access: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Institutes:Biochemie, Chemie und Pharmazie / Pharmazie
Medizin / Medizin
Dewey Decimal Classification:6 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften / 61 Medizin und Gesundheit / 610 Medizin und Gesundheit
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0