Medication management ability in older patients: time for a reappraisal

C. Giannotti, A. Nencioni, P. Odetti, F. Monacelli

Department of Internal Medicine and Medical Specialities, University of Genoa, Italy

Background. Adhering to drug regimens is a complex and multidimensional task. Elderly patients usually take an average of seven drugs but most fail to adhere to the prescribed regimen. Several performance-based instruments have been developed to assess a patient’s capacity to manage drugs but with inconsistent results.

Aims. The aim of the study was to assess the prevalence of impaired medical management capacity in a sample of the oldest old hospitalized elderly patients and the main clinical factors associated with potential unintentional non-adherence.

Methods. Forty-six consecutive patients were enrolled in the geriatric transitional care unit of Ospedale Policlinico San Martino, Genoa, Italy. All patients received an abbreviated comprehensive geriatric assessment and a hand grip assessment for sarcopenia. Patients’ medication management ability was assessed by administering the DRUGS tool 48-74 hours before hospital discharge. 

Results. The results showed a negative correlation between age and total medication management score. A positive correlation was detected between functional status, cognitive status, and medication management score. Hand grip strength < 9 kg correlated with a significant worsening of medical management capacity. In contrast, multiple morbidities and the mean number of drugs were not associated with the medical management score. 

Conclusions. This preliminary study indicated that drug management capacity mainly relies on frailty markers, such as functional status, sarcopenia, and cognitive performance. Further studies are warranted to identify a subset of medical parameters that can accurately predict impaired medical management ability early, particularly for highly vulnerable elderly patients.

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