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Polypharmacy, a cocktail of drugs with grave implications.

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

Polypharmacy - A Cocktail of Drugs With Grave Implications

All too often, GPs prescribe one type of pill after another for a single patient. Soon the patient’s daily medication regime involves juggling as many as a dozen or more different drugs to solve a growing list of health problems. It probably started with a single issue, and one or two drugs were prescribed to manage or solve that issue. The medications prescribed often resulted in additional prescribing to relieve the side effects that came with them. Along the way, new and unrelated conditions or symptoms can emerge. This typically leads to the introduction of yet another new drug. In some cases, this can result in very serious situations and cause potentially irreversible harm.

Polypharmacy must be managed carefully.

Polypharmacy (also known as Polypharmacology) is the correct term for this and is defined as “the concurrent use of multiple medications to treat a single condition or set of conditions”.

Dangerous Drug Cocktails Can Be Created When Not Closely Monitored

Some patients can indeed benefit from Polypharmacy, but, when not closely monitored, it can also become a dangerous drug cocktail. Some of the risks associated with Polypharmacy include:

· falls;

· cognitive decline;

· hospitalisation; and even

· death.

Multiple medications interact with each other, which can lead to patient harm or adverse drug events (ADE). ADEs are a leading cause of hospitalisation among older adults. Dementia patients are particularly vulnerable to Polypharmacy due to cognitive impairment. Complex medication regimens are not helpful when confusion or memory problems are present.

Dementia Patients Are at High Risk For Polypharmacology

Some other key facts about Polypharmacology: