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Choosing Wisely? Measuring the Burden of Medications in Older Adults near the End of Life: Nationwide, Longitudinal Cohort Study
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Aging Research Center (ARC), (together with KI).
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Aging Research Center (ARC), (together with KI). Catholic University of Rome, Italy.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Aging Research Center (ARC), (together with KI).
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Aging Research Center (ARC), (together with KI). Miguel Servet University Hospital, Zaragoza, Spain.
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Number of Authors: 6
2017 (English)In: American Journal of Medicine, ISSN 0002-9343, E-ISSN 1555-7162, Vol. 130, no 8, 927-936.e9 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

BACKGROUND: The burden of medications near the end of life has recently come under scrutiny, because several studies suggested that people with life-limiting illness receive potentially futile treatments. METHODS: We identified 511,843 older adults (>65 years) who died in Sweden between 2007 and 2013 and reconstructed their drug prescription history for each of the last 12 months of life through the Swedish Prescribed Drug Register. Decedents' characteristics at time of death were assessed through record linkage with the National Patient Register, the Social Services Register, and the Swedish Education Register. RESULTS: Over the course of the final year before death, the proportion of individuals exposed to >= 10 different drugs rose from 30.3% to 47.2% (P <.001 for trend). Although older adults who died from cancer had the largest increase in the number of drugs (mean difference, 3.37; 95% confidence interval, 3.35 to 3.40), living in an institution was independently associated with a slower escalation (beta = -0.90, 95% confidence interval, -0.92 to -0.87). During the final month before death, analgesics (60.8%), anti-throm-botic agents (53.8%), diuretics (53.1%), psycholeptics (51.2%), and beta-blocking agents (41.1%) were the 5 most commonly used drug classes. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and statins were used by, respectively, 21.4% and 15.8% of all individuals during their final month of life. CONCLUSION: Polypharmacy increases throughout the last year of life of older adults, fueled not only by symptomatic medications but also by long-term preventive treatments of questionable benefit. Clinical guidelines are needed to support physicians in their decision to continue or discontinue medications near the end of life.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 130, no 8, 927-936.e9 p.
Keyword [en]
Elderly, End of life, Medications, Polypharmacy
National Category
Geriatrics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-145858DOI: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2017.02.028ISI: 000405852200038OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-145858DiVA: diva2:1135521
Available from: 2017-08-23 Created: 2017-08-23 Last updated: 2017-08-23Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
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