Anticholinergic burden risk and prevalence of medications carrying anticholinergic properties in elderly cancer patients in Jordan

Ahmad Al-Azayzih, Anan S. Jarab, Enas Bani-Ahmad, Saja Smadi, Zelal Kharaba, Khalid A. Al-Kubaisi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Geriatric cancer patients are susceptible to adverse drug events due to the complexity of their chemotherapy regimens and collateral treatments for their comorbid conditions. Prescribing medications with anticholinergic burden characteristics can complicate their condition, leading to negative impacts on their health outcomes and quality of life, including an increase in adverse drug event frequency, physical and cognitive impairments. Objective: This study aims to examine the prevalence of anticholinergic prescribing and identify the cumulative anticholinergic load risk associated with drugs prescribed to elderly cancer patients. Also, to identify the predictors that might lead to raised anticholinergic burden in these patients. Methodology: This retrospective cross-sectional study included elderly patients (age ≥ 65) diagnosed with cancer and admitted to the adult oncology unit at King Abdullah University Hospital (KAUH) in Jordan during the period between (January 1st, 2019, and January 1st, 2022). The medication charts of 420 patients were evaluated for study outcomes. Results: Of the total subjects, females represented 49.3%, and the average age was 72.95 (SD = 7.33). A total of 354 (84.3%) patients were prescribed at least one drug carrying anticholinergic burden properties. Median for anticholinergic medications was 3 (IQR = 4). Our study found that 194 (46.2%) patients were at a high risk of adverse events associated with anticholinergic load (cumulative score ≥ 3). Metoclopramide, furosemide, and tramadol were the most frequently prescribed drugs with anticholinergic properties. Alimentary tract drugs with anticholinergic action were the most commonly encountered items in our study population. Conclusion: Our study revealed a significantly high prevalence of anticholinergic prescribing among elderly cancer patients. Nearly half of the patients were at high risk of developing serious effects related to anticholinergic activity from the drugs administered. Polypharmacy was strongly associated with increased anticholinergic burden score. Evidence-based recommendations utilizing prescribing strategies for safer alternatives and deprescribing of inappropriate medications could reduce such inappropriate prescribing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101710
JournalSaudi Pharmaceutical Journal
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Anticholinergic burden
  • Cancer
  • Elderly
  • Geriatrics
  • Jordan
  • Prevalence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science


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