Open Access Open Badges Research article

Pharmacotherapy of elderly patients in everyday anthroposophic medical practice: a prospective, multicenter observational study

Elke Jeschke1*, Thomas Ostermann2, Manuela Tabali1, Horst C Vollmar34, Matthias Kröz1, Angelina Bockelbrink5, Claudia M Witt5, Stefan N Willich5 and Harald Matthes1

Author Affiliations

1 Havelhoehe Research Institute, Kladower Damm 221, 14089 Berlin, Germany

2 Center of Integrative Medicine, University of Witten/Herdecke, Gerhard-Kienle-Weg 4, 58313 Herdecke, Germany

3 Institute for General Practice and Family Medicine, University of Witten/Herdecke, Alfred-Herrhausen-Str. 50, 58448 Witten, Germany

4 Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen e.V. (DZNE) in cooperation with Witten/Herdecke University, Stockumer Str. 10, 58453 Witten, Germany

5 Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics, Charité University Medical Centre, 10117 Berlin, Germany

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BMC Geriatrics 2010, 10:48  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-10-48

Published: 21 July 2010



Pharmacotherapy in the older adult is a complex field involving several different medical professionals. The evidence base for pharmacotherapy in elderly patients in primary care relies on only a few clinical trials, thus documentation must be improved, particularly in the field of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) like phytotherapy, homoeopathy, and anthroposophic medicine. This study describes diagnoses and therapies observed in elderly patients treated with anthroposophic medicine in usual care.


Twenty-nine primary care physicians in Germany participated in this prospective, multicenter observational study on prescribing patterns. Prescriptions and diagnoses were reported for each consecutive patient. Data were included if patients were at least 60 years of age. Multiple logistic regression analysis was used to determine factors associated with anthroposophic prescriptions.


In 2005, a total of 12 314 prescriptions for 3076 patients (68.1% female) were included. The most frequent diagnoses were hypertension (11.1%), breast cancer (3.5%), and heart failure (3.0%). In total, 30.5% of the prescriptions were classified as CAM remedies alone, 54.4% as conventional pharmaceuticals alone, and 15.1% as a combination of both. CAM remedies accounted for 41.7% of all medications prescribed (35.5% anthroposophic). The adjusted odds ratio (AOR) for receiving an anthroposophic remedy was significantly higher for the first consultation (AOR = 1.65; CI: 1.52-1.79), treatment by an internist (AOR = 1.49; CI: 1.40-1.58), female patients (AOR = 1.35; CI: 1.27-1.43), cancer (AOR = 4.54; CI: 4.12-4.99), arthropathies (AOR = 1.36; CI: 1.19-1.55), or dorsopathies (AOR = 1.34; CI: 1.16-1.55) and it decreased with patient age (AOR = 0.97; CI: 0.97-0.98). The likelihood of being prescribed an anthroposophic remedy was especially low for patients with hypertensive diseases (AOR = 0.36; CI: 0.32-0.39), diabetes mellitus (AOR = 0.17; CI: 0.14-0.22), or metabolic disorders (AOR = 0.17; CI: 0.13-0.22).


The present study is the first to provide a systematic overview of everyday anthroposophic medical practice in primary care for elderly patients. Practitioners of anthroposophic medicine prescribe both conventional and complementary treatments. Our study may facilitate further CAM-research on indications of, for example, dementia or adverse drug reactions in the elderly.