Older people with heart failure may be prescribed too many unnecessary drugs

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In a new study, researchers found that many older patients with heart failure are prescribed 10 or more prescriptions, and most are not medications to treat heart failure or other heart conditions.

They found more than half of older patients hospitalized for heart failure, a progressive condition in which the heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should, are discharged from the hospital with prescriptions for 10 or more medications

This is important because these older patients may be at risk for harm related to high medication burden.

The researchers say that regular medication review at each appointment is key to tailoring decisions for each patient.

The research was conducted by a team at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City.

High medication burden, also known as polypharmacy, is commonly associated with adverse events and reactions.

In the study, researchers examined the medical charts of 558 adults, aged 65 and older, covered by Medicare and hospitalized for heart failure between 2003 and 2014 at one of 380 hospitals in the U.S.

For this analysis, the number of medications for each patient was tallied at hospital admission and discharge.

Medicines were categorized by the primary condition they treat: heart failure; other types of heart disease (such as aspirin and statin drugs for coronary heart disease); or non-heart-related (such as medications for lung, kidney disease or Type 2 diabetes).

The researchers found that upon admission to the hospital, 84% of the participants took five or more medications, and 42% took 10 or more.

Participants were discharged from the hospital with prescriptions for more medications than when they were admitted: 95% were prescribed five or more medications, and 55% were prescribed 10 or more at hospital discharge.

Polypharmacy has become increasingly common, with 10 or more medications prescribed at discharge for 41% of participants hospitalized between 2003-2006, and 68% for those hospitalized between 2011 and 2014.

Most of the medications taken by participants with heart failure were not to treat heart failure or a heart condition.

The team says the medication burden for older adults with heart failure was higher following a heart failure hospitalization.

Many patients are discharged with prescriptions for medications that can worsen heart failure.

According to researchers, this study was conducted prior to the approvals of several new heart failure medications, so the number of people with heart failure prescribed 10 or more medications may be even higher today.

One author of the study is Parag Goyal, M.D., M.Sc.

The study is published in Circulation: Heart Failure.

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