Clinical consequences of polypharmacy in elderly.

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This article has been peer reviewed. It was published in: Expert Opinion on Drug Safety.

Volume 13, Issue 1, January 2014, Pages 57-65.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.1517/14740338.2013.827660

Copyright © Informa UK, Ltd.


INTRODUCTION: Polypharmacy, defined as the use of multiple drugs or more than are medically necessary, is a growing concern for older adults. MEDLINE and EMBASE databases were searched from January 1, 1986 to June 30, 2013) to identify relevant articles in people aged > 65 years.

AREAS COVERED: We present information about: i) prevalence of polypharmacy and unnecessary medication use; ii) negative consequences of polypharmacy; and iii) interventions to improve polypharmacy.

EXPERT OPINION: International research shows that polypharmacy is common in older adults with the highest number of drugs taken by those residing in nursing homes. Nearly 50% of older adults take one or more medications that are not medically necessary. Research has clearly established a strong relationship between polypharmacy and negative clinical consequences. Moreover, well-designed interprofessional (often including clinical pharmacist) intervention studies that focus on enrolling high-risk older patients with polypharmacy have shown that they can be effective in reducing aspects of unnecessary prescribing with mixed results on distal health outcomes.

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