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There’s no doubt in the medical community that patients who take more than 5 medications need to be closely monitored. It doesn’t seem like a lot of medications, and there are many people who take far more. But studies and reviews have consistently shown that people on numerous medications are at risk of several things. For example:

They have a greater risk of falls.

It has been shown that patients with just 4 medications have a greater risk of falls and that this risk increases with every added medication – no matter what the type of medication[1].

They are more likely to experience adverse drug reactions or interactions.

It seemsobvious the more medications you take the more likely you are to find one that causes a problem. In fact, patients on over 5 medications are more likely to present to the emergency department with adverse effects.[2] Medication interactions also become more likely and these too can require close monitoring.

They can find it hard to remember to take all their medications.

Recent reviews have shown that a complicated medication taking schedule can make more of an impact on a patient’s health than just the number of medications.[3] Complex medication regimes increase the likelihood that a medication is missed or taken incorrectly. This can lead to greater adverse effects or even treatment failure.

They may struggle to maintain good eating habits.

There is a correlation between a high number of medications (10 or more) and poor nutrition.[4] This will often impact on their ability to focus and carry out basic daily activities.

This might seem rather grim if you are someone who requires several medications. What is most important is not the number of medications but ensuring they are all appropriately prescribed and you are well supported to take them. The good news is that there is much you can do to reduce the impacts on your daily life. Pharmacists are medication experts and we’re here to help you manage your medications well so you can get more out of life.

 

 

References

[1] Polypharmacy: Evaluating risks and deprescribing. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2019/0701/p32.html#afp20190701p032-b18

[2] Adverse drug events in an outpatient setting.

[3] Medicine Complexity; Australian Journal of Pharmacy, August 2020

[4] Association of polypharmacy with nutritional status, functional ability and cognitive capacity over a three-year period in an elderly population.