Polypharmacy More Likely for Cancer Survivors

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More cancer survivors prescribed 5 or more unique medications, including those with abuse potential
More cancer survivors prescribed 5 or more unique medications, including those with abuse potential

(HealthDay News) -- Cancer survivors are more likely to be prescribed five or more unique medications, including drugs with abuse potential, according to a study published online in Cancer.

Caitlin C. Murphy, PhD, MPH, from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and colleagues used data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey for 5216 cancer survivors and 19,588 non-cancer controls matched by age, sex, and survey year to examine patterns of prescription medication use and polypharmacy.

The researchers found that, compared with non-cancer controls, a higher percentage of cancer survivors were prescribed 5 or more unique medications (64 vs 51.5%), including drugs with abuse potential. Compared with controls, a higher percentage of newly (1 year or less since diagnosis) and previously (more than one year since diagnosis) diagnosed survivors were prescribed medications, with large differences with respect to central nervous system agents (65.8 vs 57.4 vs 46%). Benzodiazepines and/or opioids were prescribed to nearly 10% of survivors and about 5% of controls. Survivors' prescription expenditures were more than double those of controls (median, $1633 versus $784). Across age and comorbidity categories, the findings persisted.

"Cancer survivors were prescribed a higher number of unique medications, including drugs with abuse potential, thereby increasing their risk of adverse drug events, financial toxicity, poor adherence, and drug-drug interactions," the authors write.

Reference

Murphy CC, Fullington HM, and Alvarez CA. Polypharmacy and patterns of prescription medication use among cancer survivors. Canc. DOI:10.1002/cncr.31389

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