By Andrea Hartley, CPhT
Pharmacy Technician and Central Supply Manager
The GRAND of Dublin
Polypharmacy In Older Adults
Polypharmacy is defined as the use of more medications than are medically necessary or the use of too many medications. This is a growing concern for older adults: nearly 50% of the population age 65 and older takes one or more medications that are not medically necessary. Not medically necessary means a medication is not needed, not effective or that it is a duplicate of another medication.
You may be at risk if you take 5 or more medications at home or 9 or more medications in a nursing home setting. At home, medications for high blood pressure and high cholesterol are some of the most over-prescribed drugs. In a nursing home setting, laxatives, diuretics and medications for heartburn or GERD were the most over-prescribed.
Polypharmacy can result in negative consequences such as adverse drug events, drug interactions and medication non-adherence. Taking too many medications also causes healthcare costs to rise for companies and consumers. Serious health issues can also come from this problem, like functional decline, cognitive impairment, and increased risk for falls and incontinence.
At The Grand, a consultant pharmacist looks over every resident’s drug regimen monthly and makes recommendations to the physician on unnecessary drugs.
To prevent polypharmacy in the home setting make sure you or your loved one uses only one pharmacy whenever possible. Stick with one primary care doctor as well. If a specialist visit is necessary be sure to have a list of all the drugs you or your loved one takes in hand for the appointment. Be sure to include over the counter medications or supplements on the list.
If you believe you may take too many medications, most pharmacies and primary care doctors will look over your medications and counsel you on some you may not need. Use the resources you have to prevent you or your loved one from becoming a victim of polypharmacy.