Polypharmacy among medicaid-insured children with and without documented obesity.

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DOI: 10.1002/phar.2755


OBJECTIVE: Polypharmacy increases the risk of drug-drug interactions and adverse drug events. As obesity and rates of obesity-associated comorbid chronic conditions continue to rise, an improved understanding of whether children with obesity experience higher risk of polypharmacy is needed. This study aimed to compare chronic medication polypharmacy prevalence among children with and without a diagnosis of obesity.

METHODS: We performed a cross-sectional examination of prescription data for children aged 2-18 years prescribed ≥1 chronic medication using the 2019 Marketscan Medicaid database. Children with documented obesity were identified using medical visit diagnosis codes. Chronic medications included any ≥30-day prescription with ≥2 dispensed refills. Polypharmacy was defined as the prescription of ≥2 chronic medications for ≥1 overlapping days. Chi-squared tests compared polypharmacy prevalence and the distribution of chronic medication classes between children with and without obesity. Logistic regression determined the adjusted odds ratio (aOR) of polypharmacy for children with obesity, adjusting for relevant demographic and clinical differences.

RESULTS: Of 634,671 included children, 12.2% had documented obesity. More than one-half (52.7%) of children with obesity experienced polypharmacy compared with 47.6% of children without obesity (aOR 1.06 [95% confidence interval 1.04-1.08]). Chronic medication prescriptions, particularly for psychiatric and asthma medications, were more commonly prescribed among children with obesity than those without obesity.

CONCLUSIONS: Children with documented obesity have higher polypharmacy prevalence than children without obesity. Clinicians must be aware of this risk and minimize inappropriate polypharmacy whenever possible. Future work should examine the consequences of polypharmacy, including drug-drug interactions and adverse drug events in children with obesity.

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MeSH Keywords

United States; Humans; Child; Medicaid; Polypharmacy; Cross-Sectional Studies; Retrospective Studies; Obesity; Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions


chronic conditions; drug interactions; obesity; polypharmacy

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