Polypharmacy, by definition, is the concurrent use of several different medications consumed by a person. Often these multiple medications are in the same class and are used to treat more than one chronic condition. Older individuals are often faced with issues of polypharmacy due to multiple chronic conditions and multiple providers. The risks associated with polypharmacy can lead to increased adverse effects, falls, and decreased risk of medication compliance. This paper will discuss the issues surrounding polypharmacy and provide a case example to illustrate the significance of this problem.
A common observation when interacting with patients suffering from multiple chronic diseases is an extensive list of medications, which expands phenomenally as people age (Linjakumpu et al., 2002). By definition, the use of five or more medications is considered polypharmacy (Hovstadius & Petersson, 2012). This phenomenon is very common in older patients and has been associated with an increase in geriatric syndromes, decrease in functional outcomes, and increased mortality (Gnjidic et al., 2012). These poor outcomes are related to adverse drug reactions, falls, and medication compliance (Sergi et al., 2011). Several explanations can account for polypharmacy in the older adults; one such explanation is accumulation of comorbidities that results in consulting multiple providers each prescribing medications for a particular condition independent of other prescribers (Randall & Bruno, 2006). The purpose of this paper is to discuss the issues surrounding polypharmacy in older adults and provide a case example to illustrate the significance of this problem.