It is unclear how medication use evolved before diagnosis of dementia (DoD). This study aims to identify varied patterns of polypharmacy before DoD, their prevalence and possible complications. We collected primary care e-health records for 33,451 dementia patients in Wales from 1990 to 2015. The medication uses in every 5-year period along with 20-years prior to dementia diagnosis were considered. Exploratory factor analysis was used to identify clusters of medicines for every 5-year period. The prevalence of patients taking three or more medications was 82.16%, 69.7%, 41.1% and 5.5% in the Period 1 (0-5 years before DoD) ~ Period 4 (16-20 years before DoD) respectively. The Period 1 showed 3 clusters of polypharmacy - medicines for respiratory/urinary infections, arthropathies and rheumatism, and cardio-vascular disease (CVD) (66.55%); medicines for infections, arthropathies and rheumatism (AR), cardio-metabolic disease (CMD) and depression (22.02%); and medicines for arthropathies, rheumatism and osteoarthritis (2.6%). The Period 2 showed 4 clusters of polypharmacy - medicines for infections, arthropathies, and CVD (69.7%); medicines for CVD and depression (3%); medicines for CMD and arthropathies (0.3%); and medicines for AR, and CVD (2,5%). The Period 3 showed 6 clusters of polypharmacy - medicines for infections, arthropathies, and CVD (41.1%); medicines for CVD, acute-respiratory-infection (ARI), and arthropathies (1.25%); medicines for AR (1.16%); medicines for depression, anxiety (0.06%); medicines for CMD (1.4%); and medicines for dermatologic disorders (0.9%). The Period 4 showed 3 main clusters of polypharmacy - medicines for infections, arthropathy, and CVD (5.5%); medicines for anxiety, ARI (2.4%); and medicines for ARI and CVD (2.1%). As the development towards dementia progressed, the associative diseases tended to cluster with a larger prevalence in each cluster. Farther away before DoD, the clusters of polypharmacy tended to be clearly distinct between each other, resulting in an increasing number of patterns, but in a smaller prevalence.



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Publication Title

Aging and Disease





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Organisational Unit

School of Nursing and Midwifery


Dementia, Diagnosis, Electronic health, Exploratory factor analysis, Machine Learning, Patient safety, Polypharmacy, Records