As you age, you may notice that the amount of prescriptions you have are increasing. This plethora of pharmaceuticals is part of a large and ongoing issue in American medicine known as polypharmacy. Polypharmacy is when you are prescribed a large number of different prescriptions for the same illness, or it’s side effects, usually over 5. Roughly 40 to 50% of older Americans take multiple medications for chronic issues. If you are taking a large variety of pills for similar treatments, and then taking more to combat those medicines’ side-effects, you may be a victim of polypharmacy.

Polypharmacy and Your Budget

Polypharmacy can be an issue with elders for a number of reasons. As pharmaceutical prices rise, and the number of daily pills you take goes up; your budget may be affected. The cost of your medications may be rising; and if your insurance won’t cover the full cost, you may be strained to pay for them. For people with limited finances, polypharmacy can be a big problem. Working with your doctor to reduce over-prescription can help reduce medication costs.

Prescribing Cascade

Most medicines have side-effects. While not present in all patients, side-effects affect a user’s health while the medicine works to regulate the prescribed issue. When multiple drugs are used, the likelihood of side-effects will rise, and they often become exacerbated. Older patients, whose bodies may have a harder time metabolizing drugs, will often experience more side-effects. Your doctor may even prescribe drugs to treat those symptoms. This is known as a “prescribing cascade,” and is a major component of why polypharmacy is an issue for the elderly.

Polypharmacy in Nursing Homes

According to research done in the 2004 United States Nursing Home Survey, over 39% of all nursing home patients were taking 9 or more medications. A similar study of Canadian nursing homes found that only about 15% of their patients were taking that many medications. In nursing homes, where elders are often less active, infections and complications from side-effects can often lead to larger issues. Which, in turn, can lead to even more prescriptions.

Reducing Polypharmacy at Home

When living at home, you and your family have more control in working with your doctor to reduce polypharmacy problems. You can work with your doctor to find which medications are prescribed for the same reasons, and work to cut down on some of these prescriptions. Do not change your intake of medications without your doctor’s permission.

Talk to Your Doctor

Many patients do eventually need to take a variety of pills, but you may want to discuss this with your doctor. Multiple prescriptions for the same chronic issues can snowball, until you are being prescribed medications to deal with side effects. You may be able to find a path towards reducing the amount of prescriptions you need to take. Do not change the intake of pharmaceuticals without the advice of your physician first.

Safe Harbor Healthcare Services does not provide medical or healthcare advice via articles. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for medical advice.
Safe Harbor Healthcare Services has been providing excellent home care on Staten Island since 1967. Our services help the elderly and disabled live safely and independently; while giving their families the peace of mind they need. For more information, contact Safe Harbor by clicking here, or call us at (718)-979-6900.