Medication-related experiences of patients with polypharmacy: a systematic review of qualitative studies

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BACKGROUND: We aimed to synthesise qualitative studies exploring medication-related experiences of polypharmacy among patients with multimorbidity.

METHODS: We systematically searched PubMed, Embase and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature in February 2020 for primary, peer-reviewed qualitative studies about multimorbid patients' medication-related experiences with polypharmacy, defined as the use of four or more medications. Identified studies were appraised for methodological quality by applying the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme checklist for qualitative research, and data were extracted and synthesised by the meta-aggregation approach.

RESULTS: We included 13 qualitative studies, representing 499 patients with polypharmacy and a wide range of chronic conditions. Overall, most Critical Appraisal Skills Programme items were reported in the studies. We extracted 140 findings, synthesised these into 17 categories, and developed five interrelated syntheses: (1) patients with polypharmacy are a heterogeneous group in terms of needing and appraising medication information; (2) patients are aware of the importance of medication adherence, but it is difficult to achieve; (3) decision-making about medications is complex; (4) multiple relational factors affect communication between patients and physicians, and these factors can prevent patients from disclosing important information; and (5) polypharmacy affects patients' lives and self-perception, and challenges with polypharmacy are not limited to practical issues of medication-taking.

DISCUSSION: Polypharmacy poses many challenges to patients, which have a negative impact on quality of life and adherence. Thus, when dealing with polypharmacy patients, it is crucial that healthcare professionals actively solicit individual patients' perspectives on challenges related to polypharmacy. Based on the reported experiences, we recommend that healthcare professionals upscale communicative efforts and involve patients' social network on an individualised basis to facilitate shared decision-making and treatment adherence in multimorbidpatients with polypharmacy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere036158
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number9
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sep 2020

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