Polypharmacy in the Elderly - 1 

DRAFT

Important:  Avoid adding drugs whenever possible. Use hospital to assess which drugs are actually necessary  

What is polypharmacy?

Polypharmacy is the concurrent use of multiple medications. It can be associated with the prescription and use of too many or unnecessary medicines at dosages or frequencies higher than therapeutically essential. However, always keep in mind that multiple medications are often necessary and can constitute best care for patients.   

Elderly patients are at increased risk

Older people have higher rates of chronic illness and are more likely to be taking multiple medications. Polypharmacy increases the risk of adverse drug events such as falls, confusion, and functional decline. Changes in physiology and social and physical circumstances contribute to the risk of adverse drug events. Older people are more likely to experience poor vision, hearing and memory loss and have altered metabolic rates, such as declining renal function.   

Adverse reactions may go undetected because symptoms may mimic problems associated with old age such as forgetfulness, weakness or tremor.  Adverse reactions may also be misinterpreted as a medical condition and lead to the prescription of additional drugs.