Have you ever looked at your pills and thought to yourself “Wow, I take too many meds” or “I’m not sure why I take this pill.”
Well you are not alone. The use of multiple medications or more medications than are medically necessary is know as polypharmacy. In 2019, according to US Pharmacist, approximately 44% of men and 57% of women aged 65 and older take five or more prescription and/or non-prescription medications per week. It is not uncommon for individuals who have chronic conditions such as respiratory illnesses, Type II Diabetes and heart disease to take more medication to reduce long term risks of further complications. The aging population is at greatest risk for adverse events or harm that is caused by appropriate or inappropriate use of medication. As we age, our bodies react differently to medication, and our body is not able to metabolize or breakdown medications the same as when we were younger.
Negative consequences associated with polypharmacy are the increased risk of adverse drug events or reactions, drug to drug interactions and medication non-compliance. So taking too many meds can be detrimental.
When multiple medications are taken together, they can cause increased confusion, falls with or without injury, urinary incontinence and decreased nutritional status. Here are three keys to reducing polypharmacy risk:
- Keep an accurate list of all medications including over-the-counter medications. This list should include:
- Name of the medicine;
- Dose of the medication;
- How often taken;
- The reason for taking the medication.
- Take your medicines according to your doctor’s instruction. Never stop taking a medication or reduce the dose without talking with your physician. This is most important of you have a medication that is causing unpleasant side effects. Notify your doctor to make them aware of the side effects so your medication may be reduced, stopped or changed for a different medication safely. Always review medications with your physician and have each medication evaluated and balance the potential adverse effects against potential benefits.
If you are a caregiver or adult child, review with your loved one from time to time the medications they are on.
It is possible some are no longer needed but the pharmacy kept refilling based on outdated information. If they cannot clearly state why they are on a medication, try to look it up online and see what it is usually prescribed for. You might also search online for a drug interaction site that will allow you to enter two or more prescriptions and see if they should not be taken together, or should be taken at different times of the day.
We are lucky to have access to the modern drugs that can help us live with our various conditions. But remember that too much of a good thing may also be negative. If you would like to discuss with our elder care coordinator your concerns about taking too many meds, do not hesitate to contact us for an appointment at 239-434-8557.