The paper, led by the University of Glasgow and published in BMJ Open, found people with COPD, a long-term lung condition common in those who have smoked, are more likely to be prescribed multiple medications contributing to potential adverse effects like falls, bleeding, kidney damage, constipation, urinary retention, and drowsiness.
People with COPD were more likely to have other chronic illnesses and to be simultaneously prescribed three or more drugs with similar potential side-effects.
The study used data from UK Biobank to examine the problem of multimorbidity (two or more long-term health conditions) and polypharmacy (multiple medications).
Many of the medications contributing to the risks of adverse reactions were used to treat the associated chronic illnesses, rather than COPD itself. Having multiple chronic illnesses appeared to put people with COPD at greater risk of potential adverse drug reactions.
Lead author Peter Hanlon said: “Our work shows that co-prescription of drugs with the potential for various adverse drug reactions is common.”
Corresponding author Frances Mair, Norie Miller Professor of General Practice at the Institute of Health and Wellbeing, added: “Our findings are important because it highlights the need for future research to examine the effects of this on healthcare outcomes.
“Going forward clinical guidelines need to start emphasising the importance of the assessment of multimorbidity and adverse drug reaction risk.”
The paper, ‘Examining patterns of multimorbidity, polypharmacy and risk of adverse drug reactions in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a cross-sectional UK Biobank study’ is published in BMJ Open. The work is funded by The Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office, a catalyst grant CGA/16/39 and a NHS Research Scotland Career Researcher Fellowship.