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Dave Wegman, RPh, MS
Manager, Green Tree Pharmacy
This article was submitted by Dave Wegman to Healthy Cells.

This is the second in a series of articles regarding polypharmacy, or the use of many medications. The first article presented some background information, explained who is at risk, and listed what can be done to avoid problems associated with polypharmacy. This article provides a further explanation of why polypharmacy is becoming more prevalent.


As people live longer, many of them are affected by multiple medical conditions, each of which may be treated by several medications. Some conditions are acute, requiring only short-term treatment, while others are chronic and may require life-long drug therapy. Over time, treatment for each additional condition may result in the use of multiple medications. When more medications are being taken at the same time, the chances increase that a person will experience side effects and interactions between medications. Sometimes a drug is prescribed to treat side effects from another medication. When a large number of medications is being prescribed, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of when each should be taken; actually following the prescribed regimens becomes even more complicated. If the patient does not take medications in the proper dosage and at the appropriate time, his or her condition may worsen and additional medications may be prescribed which would not be needed if the original drug regimen were followed appropriately.


Patients are often being seen by several physicians for the treatment of their various conditions. When complete medical information is not shared with all of the physicians, the likelihood increases that the patient will be given duplicate, overlapping or interacting medications.


Several professional organizations have developed practice guidelines that outline recommended drug therapies for specific conditions. These guidelines often suggest the use of multiple drug therapies. In the interest of providing good care and because of legal concerns, physicians may feel compelled to prescribe several medications.


More new drugs have become available in recent years, as the FDA has approved as many as 30+ new medications each year for several years in a row. Additionally, medications have become more widely accessible due to the expansion of health insurance programs, notably the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. Chain drug stores are growing at amazing rates, with Walgreen’s opening a new store every 19 hours. Mail order pharmacies have also made access to prescription medications easier.


More educated consumers are more demanding and have higher expectations. They may request a medication when their physician would not be inclined to prescribe anything. Prescription drug manufacturers have begun advertising directly to consumers, creating demand where none had previously existed.


As illustrated here, there are a number of factors involved which contribute to the use of multiple medications. It is important for consumers to be aware of these and to work closely with their health care providers to avoid potential problems from polypharmacy.


Heritage Enterprises Inc.
115 W. Jefferson St., Suite 401
P.O. Box 3188 
Bloomington IL 61702-3188
PH: (309) 828-4361  
FAX: (309) 829-5477 

Heritage Operations Group is proud to provide the senior population in Illinois with rehabilitative therapy services, skilled nursing care, specialized Alzheimer’s and dementia care, assisted and supportive living, independent living and pharmacy services.


Heritage Operations Group, is a separate and distinct legal entity from any and all other entities named or listed on this website.  Any information contained in this website does not constitute evidence of a relationship between Heritage Operations Group, or any other named or listed entity.

Heritage Operations Group •  115 W. Jefferson St. Suite 401  •  P.O. Box 3188   Bloomington, IL   61702-3188
PH. 800-397-1313  •  FAX: 309-829-5477

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