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Medicine Useage

We found that over one in five men and women took ten or more medicines (called hyper-polypharmacy). Hyper-polypharmacy can help to treat health conditions but can also contribute to risk of side effects with medicines including feeling sleepy, falls, constipation and less energy.

We looked at medicine use by age. Here we found that those who were over 65 years of age used most medicines; over one third of those over 65 years of aged used ten or more medicines, compared to almost one fifth of those aged 50-64 and almost one fifth of those aged 40-49 years. Use of many medicines is often more common in older age as people have more medical conditions that need treatment.

We look at polypharmacy (use of 5-9 medicines) and hyper-polypharmacy (10+ medicines) by reported level of intellectual disability. Those with severe/profound level of ID had higher levels of hyper-polypharmacy and polypharmacy; 30% of those with severe/profound intellectual disability took 10+ medicines and 47% took 5-9 medicines. Those with mild intellectual disability had lower levels of hyper polypharmacy and polypharmacy, 17% of those with mild intellectual disability had hyper polypharmacy and 22% had polypharmacy.

We examined hyper-polypharmacy and polypharmacy and its relationship to where people lived. Here we found that over one-third of those in residential settings had ten or more medicines, compared to 12% of those who lived in a community group home and 4% of those who lived independently. People in residential settings may have had more medical conditions compared to people in community group homes or living independently and therefore need more medicines.

Most common medicines used by our participants (736 participants)

We looked at which types of medicines were most commonly reported by participants in the study. Here we found that the four most common types of medicines were antipsychotics, antiepileptics, drugs for constipation and painkillers. This is because some of the most commonly reported medical conditions in the study population were mental health conditions, epilepsy and constipation. This pattern of use was different to the TILDA study where medicines to treat heart conditions were most commonly reported.

Percentage of participants receiving most common medicines according to living circumstances

We looked at the three most commonly used types of medicines (antipsychotics, antiepileptics and drugs for constipation) by place of residence. We found that use of these medicines was highest in residential settings. Over half of those in residential settings had antipsychotics, compared to 43% of those in community group homes and 16% independently. For constipation, place of residence particularly stood out: here 54% of those in a residential setting had medicines for constipation, compared to just 29% of those in community group home and 9% of those who lived independently.

O'Dwyer, M., Peklar, J., McCallion, P., McCarron, M., Henman, M. C. (2016). Factors associated with polypharmacy and excessive polypharmacy in older people with intellectual disability differ from the general population: a cross-sectional observational nationwide study. BMJ open, 6(4), e010505