Polypharmacy can be a problem for you!


As people age, they often have more health problems. Many of these problems can be treated with medicines. Diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart failure, and the inability to sleep may require long-term medicines to manage these conditions. When numerous different medicines (e.g., 5 or more) are taken at the same time, it is called polypharmacy.

Polypharmacy can lead to errors and other problems. As the number of medicines goes up, the risk of making a mistake also rises. It becomes difficult to manage all the different times that the medicines need to be taken, and one medicine can easily be confused with another. The risk of a drug interaction also increases. This happens when one medicine interferes with how another medicine works in the body. Sometimes one doctor will prescribe a similar medicine that another doctor has already prescribed, which can lead to more problems or an overdose if both medicines are taken. Also, using over-the-counter medicines or supplements may interfere with some of the medicines your doctor prescribed.

Here’s what you can do: Keep an updated list of all the medicines your doctors have prescribed for you. Each time you visit a doctor, ask him or her to review your list to make sure you should continue taking all the medicines. Tell your doctor which over-the-counter medicines, supplements, and/ or herbal products you take, including how much and how often. Know why you take each medicine and what side effects to expect. Tell your doctor if you have side effects. Ask if any of the medicines can be stopped. But do not stop taking a prescribed medicine unless your doctor says it is okay. Suddenly stopping a medicine can make symptoms worse or cause other problems.

Created on December 11, 2017

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