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Polypharmacy and the importance of medication management

Last Modified: February 20, 2024

Family Medicine, Safety & Prevention


This post was written by Stephanie Allen, NP, Adult-Geriatric Primary Care, PPG – Family Medicine, Bryan, OH.

As we age, we become more likely to develop chronic medical conditions. To manage these conditions, patients are often prescribed medications. Sometimes though, these different health concerns lead patients to various specialists and to get prescriptions filled at different pharmacies. This makes it difficult to keep track of what medications are being taken and puts patients at risk of being over-prescribed. It’s one of my goals as a provider to draw attention to this issue, called polypharmacy, and to bring awareness to all providers, patients and caregivers of the concerns that can accompany polypharmacy.

What is polypharmacy?

Polypharmacy is the medical term for excessive or unnecessary use of medications and is commonly seen in the older adult population (ages 65 and older). Often, polypharmacy is defined as taking at least five medications regularly. One study found that the overall prevalence of polypharmacy across all countries is 32.1%.

Concerns around polypharmacy

Researchers and providers are looking into polypharmacy because it can cause several concerns for older adults. Another study found that an older adult taking seven or more medications was at a 2.5 (approximately 145%) increased risk of frailty over 8 years. Frailty is a state of increased vulnerability and has been associated with an increased risk of poor outcomes in older people including disability, falls, hospitalization, institutionalization and even death.

Other risks from polypharmacy include:

  • Increased side effects
  • Decreased mobility
  • Increased falls
  • Drug-to-drug interactions
  • Increased healthcare use (trips to clinics and emergency departments and hospitalizations)

Discuss polypharmacy with your provider

Patients, caregivers, and the patient’s care team need to come together and make polypharmacy discussion a priority. If you or your loved one is taking multiple medications, discuss deprescribing at your next routine visit. Deprescribing is the process of stopping medications that are no longer needed or may be causing harm.

Patients and caregivers can help with polypharmacy by bringing an up-to-date list of medications and supplements to each appointment, discussing all new medications or supplements prior to starting them, discussing potential side effects, and obtaining all medications from a single pharmacy so the pharmacist can review medications to avoid harmful drug interactions.

Now is the time to start discussing polypharmacy and deprescribing with your provider. Communication regarding all aspects of your health is important including polypharmacy and the prevention of the risks associated.

If you need help scheduling an appointment or establishing care with a provider, our Access Center can help. Call any time, at 877-PPG-TODAY or 877-774-8632 for assistance.







Clegg A, Young J, Iliffe S, et al. (2013). Frailty in elderly people. Lancet (London, England). 2013(381):752–762. 

Pazan, F., Wehling, M. (2021). Polypharmacy in older adults: a narrative review of definitions, epidemiology and consequences. European Geriatric Medicine. 12(3): 443-452.

Veronese N., et al. (2017).  Polypharmacy is associated with higher frailty risk in older people: an 8-year longitudinal cohort study. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 18(7):624–628.

Vordenberg, S., Malani, P., Kullgren, P. (2023). Polypharmacy and Deprescribing. Journal of American Medical Assocation. 33(7): 672.


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