What is Polypharmacy?
Polypharmacy is loosely defined as the use of more drugs than medically necessary. Overuse of medication is responsible for 28% of hospital admissions. It is also the 5th leading cause for death in the U.S. The two major reasons for overuse of medication are:
- A single person receiving various prescriptions from multiple doctors.
- A combination of drugs given to a patient without properly researching how the specific patient will react or how the medications will interact with one another.
Who is Affected:
Anyone can be a victim of polypharmacy however, it is most common among the elderly. Nearly 50% of all older adults are taking unnecessary prescriptions or dosages of medications. The average number of prescriptions taken by an individual between the ages of 65 to 69 is 14! According to a 2004 study, polypharmacy frequently occurs in nursing homes. 39.7% of patients in nursing homes are receiving too many medications. Often this is due to negligence on the part of their doctors.
What are the Effects?
Polypharmacy is especially hard on the elderly because as a person ages, their metabolism starts to slow down. A slower metabolism makes it more difficult to digest medications and it also makes it harder to get the medication out of their systems. This also means that the strength of the medication might need to be altered to address the changes in metabolism. This is why it is important for doctors to closely watch both the types of and amounts of medication elderly patients are receiving.
Some issues that occur include:
- Adverse Drug Reaction
- Cognitive impairment
- Drug Interactions
- Urinary incontinence
Solving the Problem
There are a number of ways to resolve the issue of over prescribing of medications:
- Utilize a pharmacy consultant, who reviews all of the medications a patient takes
- Make certain the doctors who prescribe the patient’s medication communicate with one another
- Communicate with the nursing home to make certain it is properly providing medications and checking with doctors to address any potential issues
- Watch out for cognitive and other behavioral changes in the patient, which might be the result of over medication
- Make certain you are aware of the medications you are taking and address them during your appointments with your doctors
- If you have a loved one who is unable to keep track of her medications, be certain that you know what medications she is taking and discuss them with her doctors
Harmed Due to Too Much Medication?
If you or a loved one has been seriously damaged due to polypharmacy because of a doctor, pharmacist or nursing home’s negligence, contact Lowenthal and Abrams right away. With over 40 years of experience, our medical malpractice attorneys know how to fight for those who have been wrongfully injured. Call Lowenthal and Abrams today for a free consultation.