Polypharmacy may increase overtreatment of diabetes in SNF residents, study shows

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Polypharmacy may be the culprit behind overtreatment for hypertension and diabetes among nursing home residents, a new study shows.

A team of Canadian researchers studied a group of more than 200 residents at six skilled nursing facilities to analyze the link between polypharmacy prevalence and treatments prescribed for diabetes and hypertension.

Residents with polypharmacy — regularly taking nine or more medications — were more likely to be diagnosed with hypertension, a finding that's in line with previous research, the study's authors said. Overtreated diabetes and hypertension were also found to be prevalent in the facilities.

The study also found a statistically significant link between polypharmacy and overtreatment for blood pressure issues.

The findings signal that harm associated with overtreatment, as well as the number of prescriptions prescribed to residents, may be reduced by cutting back on their treatment-specific medications, researchers said in BMJ Open.

“Harm reduction in the setting of polypharmacy has often focused on categories of ‘inappropriate' medications,” the study's University of British Columbia-based authors wrote. “However, recent research suggests that ‘appropriate' medications, such as those used to treat diabetes and hypertension, are more frequently the cause of adverse drug reactions that result in emergency room visits and hospitalisations.”

The researchers also recommended conducting a larger study with a better diversity of nursing home residents, as well as community-dwelling seniors.