International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 327–334 | Cite as

Drug-related problems in institutionalized, polymedicated elderly patients: opportunities for pharmacist intervention

  • Cristina Silva
  • Célia Ramalho
  • Isabel Luz
  • Joaquim Monteiro
  • Paula FrescoEmail author
Research Article


Background An aging population and the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases have led to the increased use of medicines. Portugal is one of the European countries where more medicines are consumed and the associated expense is higher. Medicines are associated with enormous health benefits but also with the potential to cause illness and death. A drug related problem (DRP) is an “an event or circumstance involving drug therapy that actually or potentially interferes with desired health outcomes”. In the U.S., they represent the 4th–6th leading cause of death and have an estimated cost of 130 billion dollars. Moreover, many of these DRP can be avoided. Elderly are at increased risk of DRP due to multiple factors: pluripathology and consequent polypharmacy, complex dosing regimens, pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic and functional/cognitive changes. Therefore, this population would be the one who would benefit most from the prevention, detection and control of DRP. The role of the pharmacist as an integral element of health care has been recognized by various international and European organizations. Providing pharmaceutical care as a patient-centered activity, focusing on their needs related to pharmacotherapy, contributes to guarantee that drug expenditure is a good investment, with benefits that outweigh potential risks. Objective To evaluate the need for pharmaceutical care implementation in institutionalized, polymedicated elderly. Methods Descriptive observational cross-sectional study carried out in six Portuguese nursing homes, selected by convenience, in November–December 2013. Each institution selected up to six patients, according to the following inclusion criteria: age ≥65 years, number of medications ≥5 and ability to respond to an interview. All participants signed an informed consent form. Pharmacists carried out a structured interview with each patient and consulted patient medical records to gather demographic data and information on health problems and medications used. To identify DRP, official drug information sources were consulted, and the STOPP and START tool was used. The ATC, the ICD-10 and the PCNE Classification V 6.2 classification systems were used for medicines, health problems and DRP classifications, respectively. For each medicine used, the cheapest equivalent available was also identified. Results The sample included 31 elderly (64.52 % female, mean age 81.65 ± 6.86). On average, subjects presented a mean of 7.94 ± 2.76 health problems with diseases of the circulatory system being the most common. The sample used a median of ten medicines per patient. Those medicines working in the cardiovascular, nervous and digestive systems were the most frequently used (29.75, 29.43 and 19.30 %, respectively). A total of 484 DRP (median: 15 DRP/patient) was found. The most common DRP were Adverse Drug Event, non-allergic (49.51 %), Drug treatment more costly than necessary (19.11 %), Effect of drug treatment not optimal (14.82 %) and Unnecessary drug treatment (6.16 %). The most cost-effective proposal, would lead to a saving of € 3,950/year in the studied sample. Conclusion These results reinforce the need for the implementation of pharmaceutical care services to institutionalized elderly, necessary to improve medicines efficacy and safety, better clinical outcomes and cost reduction.


Drug-related problems Elderly Pharmacist intervention Polymedication Portugal 



The authors are deeply grateful to Dr. Nuno Lages for the trust he has deposited in our work and to Eng. Sérgio Gonçalves for its assistance on facilitating the contact and cooperation with the NH. We also would like to thank the responsibles of the six NH involved, for the kind cooperation and, ultimately, all the patients that agreed to participate in this study.


The authors thank Diola—Sénior Assistance (Portugal) for financial support.

Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© Koninklijke Nederlandse Maatschappij ter bevordering der Pharmacie 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cristina Silva
    • 1
    • 2
  • Célia Ramalho
    • 1
  • Isabel Luz
    • 1
    • 3
  • Joaquim Monteiro
    • 1
    • 4
    • 5
  • Paula Fresco
    • 1
    • 5
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.SerFarma, LtdCoimbraPortugal
  2. 2.Faculty of Pharmacy, Center for Pharmaceutical StudiesUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  3. 3.Farmácia RainhaCarrazeda de AnsiãesPortugal
  4. 4.Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Higher Institute of Health Sciences - North (ISCS-N)CESPU, Institute of Research and Advanced Training in Health Sciences and TechnologiesGandra PRDPortugal
  5. 5.MedInUp - Center for Drug Discovery and Innovative MedicinesUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal
  6. 6.Laboratory of Pharmacology, Department of Drug Sciences, Faculty of PharmacyUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal

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