Polypharmacy is the concurrent use of multiple drugs (prescription and non-prescription)  common cause of iatrogenic illness and can pose significant clinical risk. Taking 2 drugs increases the risk fro an adverse event by 6% or by 100% if taking 8 . Polypharmacy does not necessarily imply the prescribing is inappropriate. The use of several drugs and the existence of several chronic diseases  greater risk for drug interactions, side effects and adverse events. Risk may be increased in those who are malnourished or who have kidney disease. The use of alternative/complementary/herbal supplements may also be a factor in some adverse events.

Nearly 70% of the elderly receive regular medication – many of these receive more than one – this multiple prescribing is referred to as polypharmacy. Of those over the age of 85, 80% are taking 3 or more drugs.

Polypharmacy increase risks for non-compliance with medication taking, drug interaction and adverse events – also at risk due to renal and liver clearance being decreased. Assumed to be an inverse relationship between compliance and the number of drugs taken. Should be addressed by simplifying and prioritising medications. Aim should be for a simple feasible regimen

Early detection of drug interactions is part of the role of all health professionals

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Polypharmacy Guidance app

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