Published on Jul 20, 2018
Authored by Pfizer Medical Team
A growing number of people in Australia and New Zealand — especially older adults — are taking multiple prescription and over-the-counter medicines and supplements at the same time. But taking all of those medicines and supplements — some of which may not be needed — can increase the risk of side effects and dangerous drug interactions. It’s important to make sure that you are taking only what is necessary. Read on to learn more.
The number of older people who are taking prescription medications is increasing. And so is the number of people taking more than five medications and supplements — a practice known as polypharmacy. Researchers point to two possible drivers of this increase. One is that some people are receiving care from more than one doctor and those doctors may not be aware of the medicines and supplements that have been prescribed or recommended by their peers. The other is that people don’t always tell their doctors (and doctors don’t always ask) about their use of supplements and over-the-counter medications.
Are we overmedicating? A look at the numbers
Studies have shown that:
Taking too many medicines can lead to a number of issues, including:
Interestingly, around $1.2 million each year is spent on medication related hospital admissions and half of these hospital admissions could be preventable.
Before you stop any of your medicines, how can you determine what you need or don’t need? Read on.
Whether you take prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, supplements, or a combination of these, it’s important to work with all of your healthcare providers to make sure that you take only what is necessary for you. Here are tips to help you get started:
If you need to take multiple medicines, it can help to leave your repeat prescriptions at your preferred pharmacy. That way, it’s all in one place and you are less likely to misplace them. The pharmacist can also remind you when to return to the doctor for a new prescription. There are also mobile phone apps that can help you manage your medications such as MedicineWise in Australia. Remember, your pharmacist can help with ways to help reduce medication errors.
If you or someone you know experiences a serious reaction to a medicine, please contact your healthcare professional. You may also wish to report the side effect to the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia by calling 1800 020 653 or by visiting https://www.tga.gov.au/reporting-problems; or Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring in New Zealand by calling 0800 4Monitor (0800 466 678) or by visiting https://nzphvc.otago.ac.nz/consumer-reporting/.
Last reviewed: 15/08/2019
- Your Health: 10 Ways to Reduce Medication Errors
- TGA: Report a side effect of a medicine
- Medsafe: Reporting a problem
- NPS Medicinewise: consumer information