Specialized Home Care » Glossary » Polypharmacy

What is Polypharmacy?

We were talking about medications, specifically something we call polypharmacy. That’s a fancy name
for a patient who’s taking more than 5 medications. Being on more than 5 medications increases your risk for a drug-drug interaction or, worse, an adverse drug reaction.

Importance of Polypharmacy

As a home health agency, we look closely at medication profiles and try to reconcile
the list, weeding out what the patient is currently taking or has stopped or started
taking. We work closely with their primary care physician team to reconcile the list.
Medication mismanagement/errors is a huge issue in today’s healthcare world.

Most notably, the rate of drug deaths among Americans ages 65 and older doubled
over the last decade from 4.2 to 8.4 deaths per 100,000 since 2008-2010,according
to The United Health Foundation recently issued “Senior Report America’s health
rankings 2022. This equates to 8,620 additional deaths. While this change is
generally consistent with trends across all age groups, the most notable increase
was 147%, from 4.7 to 11.6, among those ages 65-74 — the largest percent
increase compared with all other age groups during that time period.

Benefits of Polypharmacy

As we age, our liver does not metabolize medications as efficiently as when we are younger.
This is because medications can stay in the body longer. A drop in body weight also
contributes to inefficiency of metabolizing the drug. Confusion and disorganization
could be another reason. Another factor is unintentionally or intentionally misusing
medications, like powerful opioids. Social isolation could be another factor,
according to the study.

If you have concerns about what you are taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. If
you are on more than 5 medications, it might be a good idea to discuss what you
are taking with your doctor so they can reconcile any drugs that you might not be
needing anymore based on your current health.

-Michael, PTA