Jun 1, 1976

Polypharmacy in the psychiatric treatment of elderly hospitalized patients: a survey of 12 Veterans Administration Hospitals

Diseases of the Nervous System
R F PreinE M Caffey


Polypharmacy with psychoactive drugs was surveyed in 1276 elderly psychiatric patients from 12 Veterans Administration hospitals. One out of every six patients received two or more psychoactive agents. No specific combination of drugs was overly popular. The most frequently administered combinations, thioridazine plus phenobarbital and chlorpromazine plus phenobarbital, were administered to only 13 patients each (1% of the sample). The large majority of the combinations involved antipsychotic agents. One antipsychotic drug, thioridazine, was a component of nearly one-third of the combinations. The most frequent pairings were an antipsychotic drug plus and antidepressant, two antipsychotic drugs, and an antipsychotic drug plus an antianxiety agent or sedative-hypnotic. The use of polypharmacy was significantly related to patient age. One out of every four patients 60 to 65 years of age received two or more psychoactive drugs compared to only one out of eight over 75 years of age. The implications of these findings for treatment and research are discussed.

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Mentioned in this Paper

Antipsychotic Effect
Organic Mental Disorders, Psychotic
United States Department of Veterans Affairs
Anti-Anxiety Effect
Psychiatric Inpatient
Antipsychotic Agents

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