This study describes polypharmacy among patients admitted to hospital with rheumatic diseases.

The study was performed in departments of rheumatology at nine Norwegian hospitals during five weeks in 1998. Pharmacists recorded all drugs on admittance among patients 18 years or older with rheumatic diseases.

Sixty percent of 313 patients had polypharmacy defined as the concurrent use of five or more drugs, and this was most frequent among the older patients. However, they used fewer antirheumatic drugs compared to the younger patients. With regard to the three most common drug groups, older patients used more corticosteroids, and less nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)and disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), compared to the younger. Eighty-four percent of patients on methotrexate used folic acid, but only 52% of the patients who used corticosteroids used calcium supplements.

Polypharmacy among patients with rheumatic diseases is common, and the present description could be useful for drug-related interventions.