INTRODUCTION: Polypharmacy is associated with an increased risk of adverse health outcomes. This study aims to describe the prevalence of polypharmacy and medication use among older Danish citizens.

METHODS: From national registers, we extracted medicine use in relation to age group and residential region for the entire Danish population for the first half of 2016. The most frequently redeemed medicines among older citizens (≥ 75 years) in 2016 were grouped into clinically meaningful medication classes.

RESULTS: The prevalence of polypharmacy (> 5 different medicines) was 51% among citizens ≥ 75 years compared with 12% for the entire Danish population. The prevalence of polypharmacy increased with age and was 7% among citizens aged 40-49 years compared with 66% among citizens aged ≥ 90 years. There were only minor regional differences in the prevalence of polypharmacy. The most commonly redeemed medicine classes and individual medicines for older citizens were: 1) pain medication: paracetamol (50%) and tramadol (14%); 2) cardiovascular medicines: acetylsalicylic acid (26%), simvastatin (25%), metoprolol (22%), amlodipine (21%), furosemide (20%), bendroflumethiazide (17%), and losartan (14%); and 3) gastrointestinal medicines: pantoprazole (15%).

CONCLUSIONS: Polypharmacy is prevalent in Denmark with no relevant regional differences. The prevalence of polypharmacy increased with age, and more than half of the population aged ≥ 75 years redeemed prescriptions for > 5 different medicines. The most redeemed medicines among older citizens were against pain and cardiovascular disease.

FUNDING: none.


Original languageEnglish
JournalDanish Medical Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


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