Medication Regimen Complexity and Number of Medications as Factors Associated with Unplanned Hospitalizations in Older People: A Population-based Cohort Study

Barbara Caecilia Wimmer, J Simon Bell, Johan Fastbom, Michael David Wiese, Kristina Johnell

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Background: Adverse drug events are a leading cause of hospitalization among older people. Up to half of all medication-related hospitalizations are potentially preventable. The objective of this study was to investigate and compare the association between medication regimen complexity and number of medications with unplanned hospitalizations over a 3-year period.
Methods: Data were analyzed for 3,348 participants aged 60 years or older in Sweden. Regimen complexity was assessed using the 65-item Medication Regimen Complexity Index (MRCI) and number of medications was assessed as a continuous variable. Cox proportional hazard models were used to compute unadjusted and adjusted hazard ratios with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for associations between regimen complexity and number of medications with unplanned hospitalizations over a 3-year period. Receiver operating characteristics curves with corresponding areas under the curve were calculated for regimen complexity and number of medications in relation to unplanned hospitalizations. The population attributable fraction of unplanned hospitalizations was calculated for MRCI and number of medications.
Results: In total, 1,125 participants (33.6%) had one or more unplanned hospitalizations. Regimen complexity (hazard ratio 1.22; 95% CI 1.14-1.34) and number of medications (hazard ratio 1.07; 95% CI 1.04-1.09) were both associated with unplanned hospitalizations and had similar sensitivity and specificity (area under the curve 0.641 for regimen complexity and area under the curve 0.644 for number of medications). The population attributable fraction was 14.08% (95% CI 9.62-18.33) for MRCI and 17.61% (95% CI 12.59-22.35) for number of medications.
Conclusions: There was no evidence that using a complex tool to assess regimen complexity was better at predicting unplanned hospitalization than number of medications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)831-837
Number of pages7
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Medication regimen complexity
  • Polypharmacy
  • Hospitalization
  • Aged
  • Inappropriate prescribing

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