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Use Of Prescription Medications In An Elderly Rural Population: The Movies Project

Holly C Lassila, Gary P Stoehr, Mary Ganguli, Eric C Seaberg, Joanne E Gilby, Steven H Belle, Deborah A Echement, Brenda R Morand, Denyse Demers

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Objective To determine the pharmacoepidemiology of prescription drug use in a rural elderly community sample, specifically the numbers and categories of medications taken and the factors associated with them. Design Cross-sectional community survey. Setting The mid-Monongahela Valley of southwestern Pennsylvania. Participants An age-stratified random sample of 1360 community-dwelling individuals, aged 65 years and older. Measures Self-reported use of prescription drugs, demographic characteristics, and use of health services. Results Nine hundred sixty-seven participants (71%) reported regularly taking at least one prescription medication and 157 (10%) reported taking five or more medications (median 2.0, range 0–13). Women took significantly more medications than men (median 2.0, range 0–13 and median 1.0, range 0–9, respectively; p = 0.01). The use of a greater number of medications was independently and statistically significantly associated with older age, hospitalization within the previous 6 months, home health care in previous year, visit to a physician within the previous year, and insurance coverage for prescription medication. Individuals older than 85 years were significantly more likely to be taking cardiovascular agents, anticoagulants, vasodilating agents, diuretics, and potassium supplements. Significantly more women than men were taking nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, antidepressants, potassium supplements, and thyroid replacement medications. Conclusions Both the number and the types of prescription medications vary with age and gender. The demographic and health service use variables associated with greater medication use in the community may help define high-risk groups for polypharmacy and adverse drug reactions. Longitudinal studies are needed.