Taking multiple medications does not pose a major hospitalization risk for those with numerous conditions, study finds

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For some people, taking many different kinds of medication does not increase the risk of being hospitalized as much as some healthcare professionals may believe, according to recently published research out of Scotland.

Investigators looked at data for more than 180,000 adults with long-term clinical conditions and analyzed their medical diagnoses, number of medications and admissions to a hospital over a one-year period.

Those with only one condition who were taking 10 or more medications were three times more likely to have an unplanned hospital admission than people taking one to three medications, the researchers found. However, people taking the 10 or more medications were only 1.5 times more likely to have an unplanned admission if they also had six or more medical conditions.

The findings challenge the “commonly held assumption” that polypharmacy—which occurs when someone takes multiple medications—is “always hazardous” and “represents poor care,” according to lead author Rupert Payne, M.D., of the Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research.

Older patients in particular take multiple medications, and as the population ages polypharmacy is increasingly common. Thus, there is a great need for nuanced studies to inform clinical best practices for prescribing, Payne noted.

Findings appear in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

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