(HealthDay News) — Older patients taking 5 or more medications in the 6 months before intravenous (IV) chemotherapy are at higher risk for postchemotherapy inpatient hospitalizations, according to a study published online in the Journal of Geriatric Oncology.

Grace Lu-Yao, PhD, from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, and colleagues used data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results-Medicare-linked files to identify patients (≥65 years) who were diagnosed with prostate (1430 patients), breast (5490 patients), or lung cancer (7309 patients) in 1991 to 2013 and received IV chemotherapy in 2011 to 2014. Polypharmacy status was determined by the number of medications during the 6-month window pre-IV chemotherapy initiation.

The researchers found a high median number of prescription medications during the 6-month window pre-IV chemotherapy initiation: 10 among patients with prostate cancer, 9 among patients with breast cancer, and 11 among patients with lung cancer. The postchemotherapy hospitalization rate for patients with prostate cancer was 42% among those taking 5 to 9 medications, 75% for those taking 10 to 14 medications, and 114% among those taking ≥15 medications compared with patients taking fewer than 5 prescriptions. Patterns were similar for patients with breast and lung cancer.

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“The question is whether we can work with patients and their multiple health care providers to de-prescribe medicines that might no longer be essential and may interfere with their cancer care,” a coauthor said in a statement. “We are in the process of designing a randomized study to test whether we can improve cancer-patient outcomes by reducing the number of medications in the older population of patients.”

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.


Lu-Yao G, Nightingaled, Nikita N, et al. Relationship between polypharmacy and inpatient hospitalization among older adults with cancer treated with intravenous chemotherapy. J Geriatr Oncol.