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01.12.2017 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

BMC Health Services Research 1/2017

Prevalence and determinants of polypharmacy in Switzerland: data from the CoLaus study

BMC Health Services Research > Ausgabe 1/2017
Julien Castioni, Pedro Marques-Vidal, Nazanin Abolhassani, Peter Vollenweider, Gérard Waeber
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12913-017-2793-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Polypharmacy is a frequent condition, but its prevalence and determinants in the Swiss mid-aged population are unknown. We aimed to evaluate the prevalence and determinants of polypharmacy in a large Swiss mid-aged population-based sample.


Data from 4938 participants of the CoLaus study (53% women, age range 40–81 years) were collected between 2009 and 2012. Polypharmacy was defined by the regular use of five or more drugs.


Polypharmacy was reported by 580 participants [11.8%, 95% confidence interval (10.9; 12.6)]. Participants on polypharmacy were significantly older (mean ± standard deviation: 66.0 ± 9.1 vs. 56.6 ± 10.1 years), more frequently obese (35.9% vs. 14.7%), of lower education (66.6% vs. 50.7%) and former smokers (46.7% vs. 36.4%) than participants not on polypharmacy. These findings were confirmed by multivariate analysis: odds ratio and (95% confidence interval) for age groups 50–64 and 65–81 relative to 40–49 years: 2.90 (2.04; 4.12) and 10.3 (7.26; 14.5), respectively, p for trend < 0.001; for low relative to high education: 1.56 (1.17; 2.07); for overweight and obese relative to normal weight participants: 2.09 (1.65; 2.66) and 4.38 (3.39; 5.66), respectively, p for trend < 0.001; for former and current relative to never smokers: 1.42 (1.14, 1.75) and 1.63 (1.25, 2.12), respectively, p for trend < 0.001.


One out of nine participants of our sample is on polypharmacy. Increasing age, body mass index, smoking and lower education independently increase the likelihood of being on polypharmacy.
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