Polypharmacy is defined as the use of multiple medications, or more medications than are medically necessary. There is no consensus regarding the standard number of medications that defines polypharmacy. Examples of polypharmacy may include a drug regimen that consists of medications that are not indicated, are not effective, represent a therapeutic duplication with other medications, or are otherwise inappropriate for the individual taking them. Polypharmacy can increase the risk of adverse drug events, drug interactions, hospitalizations, and even death.

Polypharmacy is not restricted to only prescription medications. Many people consume over-the-counter (OTC) products as well as complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) such as herbal supplements. When evaluating a patient’s medication profile, it is important to take into account all current medications when assessing for polypharmacy.

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