Polypharmacy, defined as the concurrent use of multiple medications, is a growing concern among older adults. Adults over 65 are prone to taking more medicine than any other age group due to the increased risk of diseases and other health problems. The aging population is particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of polypharmacy due to a higher prevalence of chronic diseases and a decreased ability to eliminate drugs from the body. Handling multiple medications can be expensive, hard to manage, and difficult to track, especially for those who are homebound or live in rural areas. This article explicitly states the negative effects of polypharmacy in older adults: increased risk of adverse drug reactions, increased risk of drug-drug interactions, overuse of certain drugs, medication non-adherence, address of the medication regimen by healthcare providers, and education of patients and families. It is important to promote communication between health providers and patients.
One of the major concerns with polypharmacy in older adults is the increased risk of adverse drug reactions. Adverse drug reactions are a leading cause of hospitalization and death among older adults, and using multiple medications increases the likelihood of these events. In addition, older adults are more likely to have multiple comorbidities, which further increases the risk of advanced drug reactions (Gutiérrez-Valencia et al.) physiological changes can cause adverse drug reactions in older adults. These changes include increased body fat, decreased body water, decreased muscle mass, and changes in renal and liver function. Advanced drug reactions can be difficult to notice in older people as they often present with non-specific symptoms, such as fatigue and constipation, all of which have several diagnoses.
Another concern with polypharmacy in older adults is the increased risk of drug-drug interactions. These interactions can lead to increased toxicity of drugs, decreased efficacy of drugs, or the development of new or unexpected side effects (Scott et al.) this can lead to a reduction in the quality of life for older adults and can also contribute to increased healthcare costs. The clinical outcome of drug interactions depends on the magnitude of their impact on systematic exposure. The risk of drug-drug interactions is higher in elderly patients since they have many coexisting health conditions that expose them to poly medications.
Polypharmacy can also lead to the overuse of certain drugs, resulting in physical and psychological dependence. These can lead to a decline in cognitive function and an increased risk of falls which can result in injury or death (Gutiérrez-Valencia et al.) older adults are often more vulnerable to the effects of drugs because as their body ages, it is difficult to absorb and break down drugs as easily as it once did. Overusing certain drugs in older adults increases the risk of change in memory or the ability to think and process information. It can also increase strain on the liver, which puts older adults at risk of significant liver and kidney failure.
The overuse of medications can also lead to medication non-adherence among older adults. These can occur when older adults do not take their medications as prescribed or when they stop taking their medication altogether (Scott et al.) medication non-adherence can result in a deterioration of health and an increased risk of hospitalization. One of the causes of medication non-adherence is the cost of multiple medications can add up quickly, which can be a significant burden for patients. These can lead to older adults being unable to afford their medications and not taking them as prescribed. These can lead to poor adherence and further complicate managing their health conditions.
To address the issue of polypharmacy in older adults’ healthcare providers should use a medication regimen appropriate for the individual patient. These include taking into consideration the patient’s age, health status, and other medications that the patient is taking. In addition, healthcare providers should regularly review and evaluate the patient’s medication regimen to ensure that it is still appropriate and that any necessary changes are made (AL‐Musawe et al.) healthcare providers have a significant role in their daily practice to improve patient medication adherence. Using an appropriate medication regimen for individual patients ensures control of chronic conditions, treatment of temporary conditions, and overall long-term health.
Patients and families can also play a role in reducing the risk of polypharmacy by educating themselves about the medications they are taking and the potential risks and side effects. They should also be aware of the importance of adhering to the medication regimen and reporting any adverse reactions or side effects to their healthcare provider. Family education on polypharmacy is important because family members often play a critical role in caring for their loved ones. They may assist with administering medications, monitoring side effects, and communicating with healthcare providers. Families and patients need to be educated about polypharmacy’s potential risks and benefits.
Promoting communication between healthcare providers, patients, and their families is important to ensure that all parties are aware of the patient’s medications and potential risks. These can also be done through the use of medication lists, which are updated every time a medication is prescribed or discontinued (Scott et al., “Reducing Inappropriate Polypharmacy”) it is important for healthcare providers to have open communication with patients to avoid medical errors, lack of critical information and misinterpretation of information. Regular communication helps coordinate care, manage chronic diseases, and improve the overall quality of care. Open communication between healthcare providers and patients can provide new information, amplify perspectives, and reduce persistent emotional impacts and avoidance of medical care in general.
Polypharmacy is a growing concern among older adults and can have serious consequences. To address this issue, healthcare providers should use a medication regimen appropriate for the individual patient and regularly review and evaluate the patient’s medication regimen. In addition, patients and their families can play a role in reducing the risk of polypharmacy by educating themselves about the medications that they are taking and the potential risks and side effects. Through these efforts, we can work to improve the quality of life for older adults and reduce healthcare costs.
“Reducing Inappropriate Polypharmacy.” JAMA Internal Medicine, vol. 175, no. 5, American Medical Association (AMA), May 2015, p. 827. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.0324.
AL‐Musawe, Labib, et al. “Polypharmacy, Potentially Serious Clinically Relevant Drug‐drug Interactions, and Inappropriate Medicines in Elderly People With Type 2 Diabetes and Their Impact on Quality of Life.” Pharmacology Research &Amp; Perspectives, vol. 8, no. 4, Wiley, July 2020, https://doi.org/10.1002/prp2.621.
Gutiérrez-Valencia, M., et al. “The Relationship Between Frailty and Polypharmacy in Older People: A Systematic Review.” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, vol. 84, no. 7, Wiley, May 2018, pp. 1432–44. https://doi.org/10.1111/bcp.13590.
Scott, Ian A., et al. “Reducing Inappropriate Polypharmacy.” JAMA Internal Medicine, vol. 175, no. 5, American Medical Association (AMA), May 2015, p. 827. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.0324.