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Aging Gracefully: Reducing the Risks of Polypharmacy
What Is Polypharmacy?
- Dosages that are too high
- Medicines that are incorrectly prescribed or filled
- Medicines that interact with or duplicate the actions of other medicines
- Herbal supplements that interact with prescription medicines
Are You at Risk for Harm by Polypharmacy?
- Do you take five or more prescription medicines?
- Do you take herbs, vitamins, other dietary supplements, or over-the-counter medicines?
- Do you get your prescription filled at more than one pharmacy?
- Is more than one doctor prescribing your medicines?
- Do you take your medicines more than once a day?
- Do you have trouble opening your medicine bottles?
- Do you have poor eyesight or hearing?
- Do you live alone?
- Do you have a hard time remembering to take your medicines?
Top 10 Tips for Reducing the Risks of Polypharmacy
- Make a list of every medicine you are taking, including herbs and supplements, vitamins, and over-the-counter drugs. Update it after every doctor’s visit.
- Carry your medicine list with you everywhere. Bring it and your pill bottles along when you see the doctor.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist to check your list for possible interactions.
- If you have more that one doctor, make sure each one knows what the other is prescribing.
- Ask your primary doctor if you need to take all the medicines on the list, or if you can reduce the dosages.
- Always read labels. They may help you avoid a possible drug interaction.
- Always get your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy.
- Learn the names of your medicines and why you take them.
- Avoid combination products like cold remedies. Ask for help buying only the specific medicine that treats the symptoms you are experiencing.
- Never take a new drug without discussing side effects and interactions with your doctor, your pharmacist, or both.
American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.aafp.org/
Health Alliance Plan http://www.hap.org/
College of Pharmacists of British Columbia http://www.bcpharmacists.org/
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index%5Fe.html/
Are you at risk for polypharmacy? Health Alliance Plan. Available at: http://www.hap.org/info/formulary/polypharmacy%5Frisk.php . Accessed on September 24, 2003.
How to avoid polypharmacy. University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Available at: http://www.med.unc.edu/aging/polypharmacy.avoid.htm . Accessed on September 24, 2003.
Patel RB. Polypharmacy and the elderly [abstract]. J Infus Nurs. 2003;26(3):166-169.
Symptoms of polypharmacy. University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Available at: http://www.med.unc.edu/aging/polypharmacy/symptoms.htm . Accessed on September 24, 2003.
What is polypharmacy? Health Alliance Plan. Available at: http://www.hap.org/info/formulary/polypharmacy.php . Accessed on September 24, 2003.