Polypharmacy refers to the use of a patient. The term can be used when too many forms of medication are used by a patient, more drugs are prescribed than clinically warranted, or even when all prescribed medications are clinically indicated but there are too many pills to take (pill burden). The common result of polypharmacy is increased adverse drug reactions and higher costs. This often results when people go to multiple physicians or pharmacies for their medical/medication needs, but can happen when someome only sees one doctor, as well. Severe adverse drug effects can result in serious life-threatening situations. Polypharmacy is most common among the elderly, but can potentially affect anyone taking more than one medication.
It has become increasingly important as doctors, nurses, and patients to be aware of what medication or multiple medications are being prescribed and used. Teaching and learning about the medications and their reason for use, drug interactions, adverse side effects, interrelationships, and how to go about your daily life while maximizing the benefits of taking them has become absolutely necessary. Patients that have chronic health problems are at great risk of polypharmacy because they are probably seeing their primary care physician, other medical specialists, and emergency room doctors. This can become serious and life-threatening unless we become more aware of our medical needs and medication use. Often chronic illnesses require multiple medications for treatment and that increases the chance of drug-drug interactions and adverse side-effects. Nurses play a functional role in assisting patients to understand the dangers of polypharmacy. Nurses, through their knowledge and effort, assisting and teaching patients will make a difference and hopefully reduce and prevent serious drug consequences.
Here is a video that makes some alarming statements about polypharmacy, the first minute applies to our topic, the rest of the video touches on other topics.
Here is another very interesting clip about polypharmacy: