Because of the increased risk of developing medical problems in old age, we may need multiple medications. However, excessive use of medical drugs can lead to adverse drug effects.
This article will discuss the health risks associated with taking many medications in old age and strategies to manage them.
Why is it common in old age to take many medicines?
A study conducted in 2017 revealed that about 30% of the US older population uses more than four medications daily. The probable reasons behind this high incidence among older adults include the following.
- Chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiac problems.
- Increased use of over-the-counter medications, vitamins, herbs, and supplements.
- Cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease, memory problems, etc.
- The lack of a primary physician is another contributing factor that can increase the use of multiple medications.
Health risks associated with the use of multiple pharmacy
Some of the common health risks associated with the use of multiple medicines include the following,
- Adverse drug reactions such as rashes, itching, vomiting, diarrhea, and life-threatening shock.
- Fatal drug-drug interactions, for instance, clarithromycin can increase the anticoagulant effects of warfarin.
- Higher risks of falls
- Mental health problems, cognitive decline, and memory impairment.
Strategies to tackle this issue
The following measures can help us manage and prevent the use of multiple pharmacy in old age.
- Strictly follow the physician’s prescription. Always consult with the respective doctor even before a change in minor drug consumption.
- Make a follow-up file with the list of all the medications and prescriptions. Carry this file while visiting the respective doctor.
- Be aware of the drugs commonly associated with fatal drug interactions and side effects, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antihypertensive medications, antidepressants, etc.
- Always ask your pharmacist if it is safe to use an OTC product with other medications you might be taking.
- Extra care should be provided to older adults struggling with cognitive impairment and memory problems.
Keeping in view the health risks associated with the use of multiple pharmacy, the American Geriatric Society has endorsed the regular review of medications in old age so that a physician can deprescribe a drug when appropriate.
More than 30% of the US elderly take five or more medical drugs daily. Many factors, such as old age, chronic medical problems, memory decline, cognitive impairment, and lack of a primary physician, contribute to the incidence of multiple pharmacy. Intake of multiple medications puts us at increased risk for adverse drug-drug interactions, mental health problems, and non-adherence to drugs. However, regular follow-up, strict adherence to physician’s prescription, and minimum use of OTC and self-prescribed medications can reduce the use of multiple medications in old age.