How much is too much? Older heart failure patients often go home on 10 or more prescriptions

A majority of older heart failure patients are on at least 10 medications when discharged from the hospital, according to a new study published in Circulation: Heart Failure. It’s a statistic that left researchers more than a little concerned.

“High medication burden, also known as polypharmacy, is commonly associated with adverse events and reactions,” senior author Parag Goyal, MD, MSc, a cardiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City, said in a statement. “As the treatment options for various conditions including heart failure expand and the population ages, it is becoming increasingly important to weigh the risks and possible benefits of multiple medications.”

Goyal et al. tracked data from more than 500 hospitalized heart failure patients who received treatment from 2003 to 2014 at one of 380 different hospitals. All patients were 65 years old or older, covered by Medicare and participating in the REGARDS observational study.

When admitted to the hospital, 84% of the participants were taking five or more medications. Forty-two percent, meanwhile, were taking 10 or more. When discharged, the authors noted, 95% of participants were taking five or more medications, and 55% were taking 10 or more.

“Advances in medicine have provided patients with an increasing number of treatment options. This is a good thing. However, it is important to also consider the negative consequences of more medications prescribed for each patient,” Goyal added in the same statement.

Read the full analysis in Circulation: Heart Failure here.