The objective was to identify the systematic associations among chronic diseases and drugs in the form of patterns and to describe and clinically interpret the constituted patterns with a focus on exploring the existence of potential drug-drug and drug-disease interactions and prescribing cascades.
This observational, cross-sectional study used the demographic and clinical information from electronic medical databases and the pharmacy billing records of all users of the public health system of the Spanish region of Aragon in 2015. An exploratory factor analysis was conducted based on the tetra-choric correlations among the diagnoses of chronic diseases and the dispensed drugs in 887,572 patients aged ≤65 years. The analysis was stratified by age and sex. To name the constituted patterns, assess their clinical nature, and identify potential interactions among diseases and drugs, the associations found in each pattern were independently reviewed by two pharmacists and two doctors and tested against the literature and the information reported in the technical medicinal forms.
Six multimorbidity-polypharmacy patterns were found in this large-scale population study, named as respiratory, mental health, cardiometabolic, endocrinological, osteometabolic, and mechanical-pain. The nature of the patterns in terms of diseases and drugs differed by sex and age and became more complex as age advanced.
The six clinically sound multimorbidity-polypharmacy patterns described in this non-elderly population confirmed the existence of systematic associations among chronic diseases and medications, and revealed some unexpected associations suggesting the prescribing cascade phenomenon as a potential underlying factor. These findings may help to broaden the focus and orient the early identification of potential interactions when caring for multimorbid patients at high risk of adverse health outcomes due to polypharmacy.