Patterns of medication use and health status among adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities

Jasmina Sisirak, MPH, Beth Marks, RN, PhD, Barth B. Riley, PhD, & Yen-Ching Chang, MS


Aim: Adverse reactions caused by medication use are one of the leading causes of hospitalization and death in general population; however, patterns of medication use among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are unknown. This study aims to describe patterns and factors associated with medication use among people with I/DD.

Methods: Medication data was analyzed from 190 participants (53% female; 17% Black/African American, 7% Hispanic/Latino, .5% American Native; age M=44) along with living arrangement, body mass index (BMI), fasting cholesterol, functional status, and diagnosis.

Results: Mean number of medication intake was 6.5 (range 0-29); 94% took at least one medication. Medication use differed by race (F=7.464; p = .000); Black/African Americans took least amount of medications. Top five prescription drugs included cardiovascular (36%), respiratory (33%), anti-seizure (30%), anti-psychosis (22%), and antidepressants (22%). Number of medications depended on living arrangement (F=8.946; p = .000). People living in small (3-15 people) and large (16 and above) supervised residences took the most medications; participants living with their family took the lowest amount. People with highest BMI took the most cardiovascular drugs.

Conclusions: The interrelationship of numbers and types of medication, along with health status raises concerns about unintended interactions. Because the responsibility for regular monitoring and follow-up of healthcare for consumers with I/DD often falls on direct support professionals (DSPs), we must build capacity among DSPs to better understand signs and symptoms of drug interactions in order to ensure safety of medication use and continuity of care.