Polypharmacy: the cure becomes the disease

J Gen Intern Med. 1993 May;8(5):278-83. doi: 10.1007/BF02600099.


Polypharmacy occurs when a medical regimen includes at least one unnecessary medication. Factors that contribute to this problem include: patient characteristics of increasing age, multiple medical problems, therapy expectations, and decisions to self-treat; physician factors such as excessive prescribing; and system problems of multiple providers and lack of a coordinating provider. Complications include increased adverse drug reactions and noncompliance, which can lead to increased hospitalization and associated costs. Polypharmacy can be avoided by patient education and sharing the decisions for making the treatment goals and plan. The medication regimen can be simplified by eliminating pharmacologic duplication, decreasing dosing frequency, and regular review of the drug regimen. The goal should be to prescribe the least complex drug regimen for the patient as possible, while considering the medical problems and symptoms and the cost of therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Drug Interactions
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Drug Therapy* / economics
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Drug Utilization*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Humans
  • Patient Compliance
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Physicians, Family
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Self Medication