Guest Opinions

Polypharmacy is becoming an increasing concern statewide

Hailey Hossfeld
Hailey Hossfeld

Do you take more than a handful of medications and are tired of it? Polypharmacy is defined as a patient taking multiple medications at the same time that may be inappropriate and potentially causing harm rather than benefit, and is a true concern today. Polypharmacy tends to be more common in people 65 and older, which may be because of the following:

▪  Medications accumulate and may be used to treat side effects of another medication.

▪  Multiple chronic health conditions.

▪  Seeing multiple healthcare providers in different health care systems.

▪  Filling at multiple pharmacies.

▪  Medications are started and then never reviewed for discontinuation.

There may be other reasons for a long list of medications, including that they may all be necessary. However, polypharmacy can contribute to falls, fractures, memory loss, confusion, loss of appetite and even urinary problems that may result in an increased number of emergency department visits. This is why it is crucial that Idaho health care providers work on deprescribing in this patient population and consult a pharmacist when needed.

Deprescribing means reducing the amount of medications that a patient takes to prevent drug-related adverse effects, decreasing pill burden, improving health outcomes, and improving overall quality of life.

The Idaho senior population increased by 30 percent from mid-2010 to mid-2016, compared to 22 percent for the nation. Seniors account for approximately 15 percent of Idaho’s population, and that’s expected to grow to 17.8 percent by 2020. On average, Idaho’s seniors take five to eight prescription medications.

These are huge numbers and are only expected to grow.

With this information, it is key that health care providers (physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, etc.) work together to incorporate deprescribing into our routines and help patients have a greater quality of life as well as assisting them in preventing polypharmacy.

If you have questions related to the amount of medications that you take, reach out to your local pharmacist about going through your medication list. Here are some tips to prevent taking unnecessary medications and decrease your pill burden:

▪  Utilize a single pharmacy.

▪  Keep a current medication list and include over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements and vitamins.

▪  Ask questions when something new is being prescribed for you.

▪  Ask if there is a way to simplify your medication regimen.

Hailey Hossfeld is a doctor of pharmacy candidate 2019 at Idaho State University-Meridian.