Taking numerous prescriptions, even in the double digits, is common with older adults. There’s even a term for it: polypharmacy (which has been defined as taking approximately five or more prescriptions). A whopping two-thirds of older adults fit this category.
Most concerning about polypharmacy is that the drugs may not actually be beneficial to the patient, or can interact poorly with another drug being taken, resulting in falls, hospital stays, impaired cognition, or even death. With such serious effects of polypharmacy, there is increasing interest in “deprescribing.” What is deprescribing? A focused approach by doctors and their patients regularly reviewing medications being taken to eliminate any contraindications and any meds that are simply not necessary.
The practice now has a new campaign behind it, the Drive to Deprescribe, launched by the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. This adds to the growing effort to deprescribe, which the U.S. Deprescribing Research Network has also put a focus on. This network (which is funded by the National Institute on Aging) has awarded nine grants centred on testing effective deprescribing strategies.
For more on deprescribing, including some of the drugs commonly prescribed inappropriately, the barriers that result in polypharmacy, and how patients can advocate for themselves against polypharmacy, be sure to check out this New York Times article. (As for the medications you are taking, adherence can be an issue, which can impact test results and your health. Learn more about the importance of adherence and tools to help you manage your medications here.)