Relationship between frailty and drug use among nursing homes residents: results from the SHELTER study

Emanuele Rocco Villani, Davide Liborio Vetrano, Rosa Liperoti, Katie Palmer, Michael Denkinger, Henriëtte G. van der Roest, Roberto Bernabei, Graziano Onder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: 1.5–8% of older adults live in nursing homes (NHs), presenting a high prevalence of frailty and polypharmacy. Aims: To investigate the association of frailty with polypharmacy and drug prescription patterns in a sample of European Nursing Home (NH) residents. Methods: Cross-sectional study based on the data from the Services and Health for Elderly in Long TERm care (SHELTER) study. 4121 NH residents in Europe and Israel. Residents’ clinical, cognitive, social, and physical status were evaluated with the InterRAI LTCF tool, which allows comprehensive, standardized evaluation of persons living in NH. Polypharmacy and hyperpolypharmacy were defined as the concurrent use of ≥ 5 and ≥ 10 medications. Frailty was defined according to the FRAIL-NH scale. Results: Of 4121 participants, 46.6% were frail (mean age 84.6 ± 9.2 years; 76.4% female). Polypharmacy and hyperpolypharmacy were associated with a lower likelihood of frailty (Odds Ratio = 0.72; 95% CI = 0.59–0.87 and OR = 0.75; 95% CI = 0.60–0.94, respectively). Patterns of drug prescriptions were different between frail and non-frail residents. Symptomatic drugs (laxatives, paracetamol, and opioids) were more frequently prescribed among frail residents, while preventive drugs (bisphosphonates, vitamin D, and acetylsalicylic acid) were more frequently prescribed among non-frail residents. Conclusions: Frailty is associated with less polypharmacy and with higher prevalence of symptomatic drugs use among NH residents. Further studies are needed to define appropriateness of drug prescription in frail individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2839-2847
Number of pages9
JournalAging clinical and experimental research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Drug use
  • Frailty
  • Polypharmacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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