Polypharmacy: Are your current medications worsening your health and your wallet?


As part of your annual New Year’s goals, this should be at the top of your list: an audit of all your medications.

Why is this so important?

New research shows that more than a third of people age 65 and older are prescribed inappropriate medications, which could potentially lead to dangerous—and expensive—consequences.

Inappropriate medications are prescription drugs that older adults should avoid because their risks outweigh their benefits. According to this study, these meds are linked to increased hospitalizations and higher costs to patients.

The researchers used information collected in the 2011–2015 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to analyze the prescribing of 33 medications or classes of drugs, including barbiturates, antidepressants, hormones, NSAIDs, antihistamines, and antipsychotics.

More than 218 million older adults were surveyed, and of those, 34.4% had been prescribed at least one inappropriate medication. These people were more likely to be hospitalized, go to the emergency department, or visit a doctor compared to those who were not taking inappropriate medications. To make matters worse, they also spent $458 more on healthcare—$128 of that on the cost of the drugs themselves.

Talk about a costly and unnecessary risks!

The Risks of “Polypharmacy”

This study confirms what many in the medical community have long known: Seniors are increasingly becoming victims of not only inappropriately prescribed medications, but also “polypharmacy”—the regular use of at least five medications, many of them unnecessary or superfluous.

Earlier research published in 2016 showed that 36% of Americans ages 62–85 are prescribed five or more inappropriate prescriptions, and 15% take combinations that increase risk of major interactions.

Polypharmacy has also been shown to increase the possibility of “prescribing cascades”—when an adverse reaction to a drug is misinterpreted as a new medical condition, resulting in additional drug therapy to “treat” it.

Of course, people of all ages can get stuck in a vicious polypharmacy cycle. But it’s most common in older people, who are more likely to have several medical problems, see various specialists, and get multiple prescriptions from each doctor, making matters more complicated.

Deprescribing—And How We Can Help

The obvious solution is “deprescribing”—getting people off all the extra and unnecessary medications. But this is often easier said than done. It requires additional consultations with doctors—sometimes many—and lots of drugs require a weaning process instead of stopping cold turkey.

If you believe you are a victim of polypharmacy—or if you think you are taking one or more inappropriate medications—Newport Natural Health can at least help you get started in this process.

As a supplement retailer, we understand some of the concerns that customers have about the medications and supplements they use on a daily basis. Possible interactions, proper dosing, and cost are just some of the things our customers worry about. These are typical questions that a lot of patients save for their doctor visits, but now you don’t have to.

Newport Natural Health has partnered up with a team of licensed pharmacists who are able to offer a FREE comprehensive medication review for you or an immediate family member. This free assessment could save you money—in some cases hundreds of dollars a month—and also help you determine if any of your medications may be unnecessary or even potentially harmful.

We encourage you to give this complimentary service a try! It’s an important first step to making sure the drugs you take are actually helping you and not inadvertently worsening your health.

Other Tips to Organize and Improve Drug Safety

Once you complete a full audit of your medications, here are some additional tips you might find helpful on drug safety, medication organization, and more.

  • Use a pill organizer. Presorting all your medications and supplements for the upcoming week can help keep you on track. There are organizers that divide by morning and evening, and some that sort by early morning, mid-morning, dinnertime, and evening. Get what suits your needs, and prefill it every Sunday for the week ahead.
  • Set a reminder. Take advantage of technology by either downloading a free medication timer app, or simply setting a timer on your phone or some other smart device to remind yourself when to take your pills. If you don’t have a phone, use an old-fashioned alarm clock.
  • Get all your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy. Doing so can alert the pharmacist pretty quickly if you’re taking medications that may potentially interact.
  • Store medications in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight and heat. Your bathroom cabinet may not be the best place to store them due to the humidity that builds up when you shower. Try your nightstand drawer, or a kitchen cabinet that’s not near the oven or stove. It’s also a good idea to keep all your meds in the same place, rather than scattered around the house.
  • Safely dispose of expired drugs. Many pharmacies have bins where you can throw your old or expired medications for proper disposal. Do not throw them away with your regular garbage, and definitely do not flush them down the toilet.

Medications are a big and important part of many people’s lives, and in many cases they are necessary. But if you are taking multiple drugs several times a day—and especially if you are experiencing side effects or worsening health—strongly consider doing an audit. It is a great way to protect your health and well-being—and save money in the process.

Take good care.


Disclaimer: Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Last Updated: January 19, 2021
Originally Published: January 19, 2021