Orange Caregivers Medical Blog – Polypharmacy
by Peter O.
By the time we are five years old it is almost a guarantee that you have taken medications more than a few times. Our current healthcare system is built around prescribing medications for any health concerns, rather than preventing them in the first place. In 2009 medications were advertised more than 80 times every hour, across TV stations in America, every day. This number is even higher now. It is common to look at any cabinet of any typical family and find several bottles of medications, either prescribed or bought over the counter. As we get older, the number of medical conditions increase and also does the number of medications prescribed.
Medical professionals prescribe these medications for temporal use and other times for long term use. Sometimes it is just because of the fear of litigation if something would happen to the patient later.
Taking several medications means more side effects, and the risk for falls, delirium, weakness, non-compliance and other problems increase. This increases the risk of going to the emergency room and becoming hospitalized. Also, with so many medications lying around, it is easy for other family members especially teenagers to take the medications without recommendation from a doctor. This can lead to prescription medication abuse.
If you have a parent or family member taking more than five medicines, please discuss this with their healthcare provider to make sure they need to continue to take all the medicines. If at home, make sure all medications that are prescribed are kept in a secure location, out of reach from other family members. Lastly, adequately dispose of all those medications which are not being used or have expired.
To avoid poly-pharmacy,
- Make sure you know why each medicine is being prescribed and feel free to ask your doctor about each medicine you are taking
- If you are switching doctors, make sure that you get a list of current medications, why you are taking them and how you are supposed to take them
- Ask which ones are for treating symptoms and which ones are for treating side effects
- Only take medications that are prescribed by your medical professional
- Do not take over the counter medications without talking to your medical provider
- Do not take medications from friends and family members, even if you have similar symptoms like they do.
- Farrell, B., Shamji, S., Monhan, A., and Merkley, V. (2013). Reducing polypharmacy in the elderly. Can Pharm J (Ott). 146(5): 243–244.
- How can prescription drug misuse be prevented (National Institute of Drug Abuse)
- Spiegel, A. (2009). Selling sickness: How drug Ads Changed Healthcare. Retrieved
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to diagnose or treat any conditions. If you think you are at risk of falling or have fallen, please contact your medical team as soon as possible.
About the Author:
Peter O. studied at the University of Buea, West Africa, MedCentral College of Nursing in Ohio and Alcorn State University in Mississippi. He is a holder of two Bachelor’s degrees and two Master of Science degrees in both Biology and in Nursing. He is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with the American Academy of Nurse practitioners. He has a passion for health education which is why he is volunteering his time for short healthcare articles for Orange Caregivers. Outside work, he treasures spending time with his family and enjoys reading, listening to music and playing tennis.