Polypharmacy is defined as the use of five or more prescription medications. Polypharmacy is common among seniors and can lead to reduced adherence with medication regimens and problems with drug interactions. (4) Medication-related problems are common, costly, and often preventable in older adults and lead to poor outcomes.
Why is this Important?
27% of seniors reported taking five or more medications on a regular basis. (4)
12% of seniors taking five or more medications experienced a side effect that required medical attention compared with 5% of seniors taking only one or two medications(4)
27% of adverse drug events (ADEs) in primary care were preventable, with most problems occurring at the ordering and monitoring stages of care (1)
The number of prescription medications was associated with the rate of emergency department use. (4)
Less than 50% of all seniors reported receiving a prescription medication review from their physician identifying potential side effects. (4)
The number of medications being taken increases the risk of adverse drug reactions (ADRs), which can increase the likelihood of hospital visits.
When conducting a medication review ask for all prescribed medications, OTC and herbal preparations
Monitor compliance of medication adherence, ask about common side effects and adverse occurrences especially when new medications have been ordered
As patients become more frail, the potential harm from medications must be weighed against the potential benefits (1)
Follow the Beers criteria when prescribing and evaluating: i) medications to avoid in older adults regardless of disease or conditions ii) medications considered inappropriate when used in older adults with certain conditions or syndromes iii) medications to consider for use in certain individuals recognizing the potential for misuse and harm is substantial (5)