• Vol. 33 No. 1, 49–52
  • 15 January 2004

Polypharmacy and Inappropriate Medication Use in Singapore Nursing Homes

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ABSTRACT

Introduction: At present, 7.2% of the population in Singapore is in the geriatric age group, which will increase to 18.4% in the year 2030. The frailest segment of the geriatric population live in nursing homes. They suffer from multiple co-morbidities requiring multiple medication use. Polypharmacy and inappropriate medication use have been considered as quality indicators for nursing home care. As no data of these indicators are available in Singapore, this study was planned to assess the prevalence of polypharmacy and inappropriate medication use in Singapore nursing homes.

Materials and Methods: A total of 454 residents in the geriatric age group residing in 3 randomly selected nursing homes were involved in the study. Case notes were reviewed for demographic information, clinical history and medication use. The data were analysed for polypharmacy (5 or more medication orders) and inappropriate medication use (based on established criteria).

Results: Residents were on an average of 5.32 medications. Polypharmacy and inappropriate medication use were seen in 266 (58.6%) and 318 (70.0%) residents, respectively. There was significant association between polypharmacy and inappropriate medication use [P <0.001, χ2 = 82.56 at 95% confidence interval (CI)]. The most common medication-related problems were the use of medication without proper indication (n = 302), significant potential for adverse drug reactions (n = 281) and drug interactions (n = 141).

Conclusion: The prevalence of polypharmacy and inappropriate medication use is high in Singapore nursing homes. Current practice of medication use in the nursing homes may lead to significant adverse drug reactions and drug interactions. A multidisciplinary approach involving geriatricians, nursing home physicians, nurses and pharmacists may potentially reduce polypharmacy and inappropriate medication use in Singapore nursing homes.


The elderly usually have multiple medical problems, requiring prescription drugs to treat diseases and to prevent complications arising from them. Currently, in the United States, those who are 65 years and older (geriatric age group) make up 13% of the total population but consume 33% of all prescription drugs.

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