Polypharmacy in the aged. Practical solutions

Drugs Aging. 1994 Jun;4(6):449-61. doi: 10.2165/00002512-199404060-00002.


Elderly patients use more medications than younger patients and the trend of increasing drug use continues through 80 years of age. Studies conducted in a variety of settings have shown that patients over 65 years of age use an average of 2 to 6 prescribed medications and 1 to 3.4 non-prescribed medications. Success of pharmaceutical and medical research has resulted in an abundance of effective drugs to treat acute and chronic conditions. Most research resulting in the development and marketing of these medications has been directed at proving the efficacy and safety of single drug products. Little research has been directed to determine the safety and efficacy of combining multiple medications to treat concurrent conditions in a single patient. It is known that the use of multiple medications increases the risks of adverse drug reactions, drug-drug interactions, and makes compliance with medication regimens more difficult. Numerous studies have been conducted to better understand factors that are associated with increased drug use in elderly people. Studies also have been conducted to identify interventions that can improve drug treatment for the elderly, and reduce polypharmacy. Multiple drug use is common in older people, and may give rise to drug related problems. Methods to reduce the risks of polypharmacy include patient education, physician education, such as education and feedback systems, and regulatory intervention. Continual drug and disease monitoring is essential.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Drug Interactions
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Geriatrics* / education
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care
  • Patient Compliance
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage*


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations