Polypharmacy Before Cancer Is Predictive of Post-Treatment Hospitalization

June 19, 2020 by Elisa Becze BA, ELS, Editor

Patients who take five or more medications in the six months before beginning IV chemotherapy for a cancer diagnosis are more likely to be hospitalized after their chemotherapy treatment, according to the findings (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jgo.2020.03.001) from a new study published in the Journal of Geriatric Oncology.

In a retrospective, population-based study, researchers looked at data from 13,959 patients with prostate, lung, or breast cancer in a Medicare database and categorized the patients based on the number of medications they were taking in the six months before starting IV chemotherapy. Patients with lung cancer were taking a median of 11 medications, those with prostate cancer were taking 10, and those with breast cancer were on 6 therapies.

They found that compared to patients taking fewer than five medications, hospitalization rates increased by 114% in patients who were on 15 or more medications, 75% for those taking 10–14 therapies, and 45% of those on 5–9 different medications.

“Most chemotherapy regimens are based on data from clinical trials, which often exclude or under-represent patients with multiple comorbidities. Therefore, little is known about the outcomes of older adults with cancer treated with chemotherapy while taking numerous medications,” the authors wrote (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jgo.2020.03.001). “Our research findings highlight a significant area of concern and a research area ripe for quality improvement.”

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