With more than a third of all 60-year-olds taking five or more prescription medications, it’s no surprise that problems are resulting with the large number of prescriptions for seniors. Polypharmacy, defined as “…when an adverse drug effect is misinterpreted as a new medical problem – leading to the prescribing of more medication to treat the initial drug-induced symptom,” can result in a variety of additional health risks or worsening of existing conditions. Overprescribing medication for seniors can be dangerous, especially if it’s left unchecked.
It’s recommended that seniors and their caregivers work on a plan of de-prescribing. The following steps can help:
- Put together a list of all medications, including prescriptions, OTC drugs, and vitamin or herbal supplements, and share with the primary care physician pharmacist.
- Request a review of both the medications themselves and dosage amounts, especially if you think overprescribing medication is happening. Often, negative side effects are realized from receiving too high a dose of a medication, and simply reducing the amount prescribed is effective.
- Include in your medication review a discussion with the physician on any possible lifestyle changes that can be made as an alternative to prescriptions for seniors. These lifestyle changes may include plans for improving diet and exercise or developing a plan to lower blood pressure and the risk of heart attack or stroke.