Association between polypharmacy and health-related quality of life among cancer survivors in the United States

Zachary R. Babcock, University of Rhode Island
Stephen J. Kogut, University of Rhode Island
Ami Vyas, University of Rhode Island


Purpose: Polypharmacy (PP) is present in many cancer survivors and may lead to lower health-related quality of life (HRQoL). The study’s objective was to evaluate the association between PP and HRQoL among cancer survivors in the US. Methods: A cross-sectional analysis of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) was conducted. Our analytic sample included all adult patients with cancer, during even years 2008–2014. PP was defined as reported use of five or more unique therapeutic classes of prescription medications. The MEPS measured HRQoL using the Short Form 12-Item Health Survey Version 2 (SF-12v2) physical component summary (PCS) and mental component summary (MCS) scores. Ordinary least squares regressions were used to assess associations between PP and HRQoL controlling for demographic, socioeconomic, and clinical factors. Results: PP was prevalent among 44.4% of 10.1 million cancer survivors per calendar year (on average) for years 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014. The mean adjusted PCS score for cancer survivors with PP was 35.8 points, which was significantly lower compared with cancer survivors without PP (39.5) by 3.7 points (p value <.0001). Conversely, the mean adjusted MCS scores were not significantly lower in cancer survivors with PP compared with cancer survivors without PP (44.9 versus 45.4, p value = 0.3145). Conclusions: PP was prevalent in 44.4% of cancer survivors and was associated with significantly poorer physical HRQoL than reported in their counterparts without PP. Implications for Cancer Survivors: PP should be examined closely among cancer survivors because of increased association with poorer physical HRQoL.