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Medication usage change in older people (65+) in England over 20 years: findings from CFAS I and CFAS II

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Fiona MatthewsORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Background Medical practice has changed over the last decades reflecting the ageing population, when multi-morbidity requiring multiple medications is more common. Objective Describe and quantify self-reported medicine use including both prescription and over the counter medicines in two comparable population-based studies of older people (65+) in England and to assess the nature and scale of polypharmacy. Methods Data used were from two separate population-based studies; the Cognitive Function Ageing Study I and II. Descriptive analyses were performed to summarize and quantify general medicine use. Negative binomial regression models were fitted to determine factors associated with the number of medicines used. Results Medication use, including both prescribed medicines and over the counter products has increased dramatically over the last two decades. The number of people taking 5 or more items quadrupled from 12% to 49%, while the proportion of people who did not take any medication has decreased from around 1 in 5 to 1 in 13. Cardiovascular drugs were the most frequently taken medication. Polypharmacy is associated with increases in the number of diagnosed long term conditions. Conclusions Comparison between CFAS I and II reveals marked increases in medication usage and polypharmacy in the older population. The influence of healthcare organisation, introduction of new guidelines and technology changes leading to diagnosis of earlier, milder chronic diseases and treatment may be contributing to this changing pattern. Further research is needed to develop practical solutions to optimise medication management in older people, reducing the harming associated with medication.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gao L, Maidment I, Matthews FE, Brayne C, CFAS

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Age and Ageing

Year: 2018

Volume: 47

Issue: 2

Pages: 220-225

Print publication date: 01/03/2018

Online publication date: 26/09/2017

Acceptance date: 08/08/2017

Date deposited: 19/10/2017

ISSN (print): 0002-0729

ISSN (electronic): 1468-2834

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/ageing/afx158

PubMed id: 29036509


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Funder referenceFunder name
MRC; research grant G0601022
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)