Polypharmacy is a term that you may have heard in the medical community and is a growing concern as the use of chronic medications increases. Polypharmacy is typically considered taking at least five routine medications per day, with older adults making up the largest portion of polypharmacy. Often multiple medications are needed and appropriate to treat various health conditions, however sometimes medications are added to treat side effects of other medications. This is called a prescribing cascade and contributes to polypharmacy
The problem with polypharmacy is, as the number of routine medications increases, the risk of having an adverse drug reaction increases as well. Adverse drug reactions may include falls, confusion, or dizziness, among other problems. Polypharmacy also becomes an issue when the reason for taking a medication is unclear, drug interactions occur, or the timing and administration of the medication is complicated.
You can help by keeping an updated list of your medications, including vitamins and supplements, and sharing your list with all your healthcare providers. This list should include the dose of your medication and when it is taken. It is also important to know the reason, or indication, for each medication you are taking.
A consultant pharmacist can review your medication regimen to make sure all medications are appropriate for you and your health conditions. We will discuss any potential adverse drug reactions or concerns you may have with your medications and make sure you know the reason for each of your medications. If it is determined some medications are not appropriate for you, or may no longer be needed, we will communicate with your prescriber to create a plan to implement the changes.