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Baseline characteristics and comparability of older multimorbid patients with polypharmacy and general practitioners participating in a randomized controlled primary care trial

Jungo KT, Meier R, Valeri F, Schwab N, Schneider C, Reeve E, Spruit M, Schwenkglenks M, Rodondi N, Streit S

BMC Fam Pract 22, 123 (2021)


Recruiting general practitioners (GPs) and their multimorbid older patients for trials is challenging for multiple reasons (e.g., high workload, limited mobility). The comparability of study participants is important for interpreting study findings. This manuscript describes the baseline characteristics of GPs and patients participating in the ‘Optimizing PharmacoTherapy in older multimorbid adults In primary CAre’ (OPTICA) trial, a study of optimization of pharmacotherapy for multimorbid older adults. The overall aim of this study was to determine if the GPs and patients participating in the OPTICA trial are comparable to the real-world population in Swiss primary care.


Design: Analysis of baseline data from GPs and patients in the OPTICA trial and a reference cohort from the FIRE (‘Family medicine ICPC Research using Electronic medical records’) project. Setting: Primary care, Switzerland. Participants: Three hundred twenty-three multimorbid (≥ 3 chronic conditions) patients with polypharmacy (≥ 5 regular medications) aged ≥ 65 years and 43 GPs recruited for the OPTICA trial were compared to 22,907 older multimorbid patients with polypharmacy and 227 GPs from the FIRE database.  Methods: We compared the characteristics of GPs and patients participating in the OPTICA trial with other GPs and other older multimorbid adults with polypharmacy in the FIRE database. We described the baseline willingness to have medications deprescribed of the patients participating in the OPTICA trial using the revised Patients’ Attitudes Towards Deprescribing (rPATD) questionnaire.


The GPs in the FIRE project and OPTICA were similar in terms of sociodemographic characteristics and their work as a GP (e.g. aged in their fifties, ≥ 10 years of experience, ≥ 60% are self-employed, ≥ 80% work in a group practice). The median age of patients in the OPTICA trial was 77 years and 45% of trial participants were women. Patients participating in the OPTICA trial and patients in the FIRE database were comparable in terms of age, certain clinical characteristics (e.g. systolic blood pressure, body mass index) and health services use (e.g. selected lab and vital data measurements). More than 80% of older multimorbid patients reported to be willing to stop ≥ 1 of their medications if their doctor said that this would be possible.


The characteristics of patients and GPs recruited into the OPTICA trial are relatively comparable to characteristics of a real-world Swiss population, which indicates that recruiting a generalizable patient sample is possible in the primary care setting. Multimorbid patients in the OPTICA trial reported a high willingness to have medications deprescribed.

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