Lone Star Circle of Care looks at the risks of overmedication 


PolypharmacyPolypharmacy refers to the problems that occur when a patient takes more drugs than are medically necessary.  This often occurs when multiple health care providers are prescribing medications to treat chronic conditions and working independently rather than working together and communicating about a patient’s treatment plan. The more drugs a person takes, the more likely they are to experience complications due to polypharmacy.

Who is at Risk for Polypharmacy?

In the United States, people 65 and older make up about 13 percent of the population, but they take about 30 percent of all written prescriptions.  Because they tend to take more medications than younger people, older patients are more likely to have adverse reactions to their prescription and non-prescription drugs.  The elderly often have more than one chronic illness with at least one prescription to treat each condition.  Quite often patients are taking multiple medications prescribed by different health care providers to treat one condition, which can increase the risk of polypharmacy.

Signs of Polypharmacy

This condition can be easily overlooked because the symptoms are often associated with another chronic illness or simply aging.   Some symptoms that are caused by adverse drug interactions are:

  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Tremors
  • Dizziness
  • Skin rash

How can Polypharmacy be Avoided?

Talking with your doctor and pharmacist can help to avoid adverse drug reactions; open dialogue with a limited number of health care providers can minimize problems.  It is important to be knowledgeable of the medication you are using and keep your doctor informed of all the prescription and non-prescription medications you take.  Keeping a thorough list of medications or taking pill bottles into every doctor’s visit can be helpful.

“As long as your doctor knows and carefully monitors the medications you are on, the benefits of taking the medications far outweigh the risks,” said Dr. Ashton Wickramasinghe, internal medicine physician for Lone Star Circle of Care.

Another way to potentially avoid a harmful reaction is to have all prescriptions filled at one pharmacy; this will allow the pharmacist to check for harmful drug interactions.  If you are taking several medications, ask your pharmacist to run your medication through the drug interactions database to avoid potential problems.  Patients who are organized and take medication as directed by a doctor will be less likely to have adverse drug reactions than those who do not.

Provided by Lone Star Circle of Care

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