Polypharmacy: An Overview

  • Nelisa Paidamwoyo Ganga Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Parktown Johannesburg, South Africa.
Keywords: Polypharmacy; Adverse Drug Reaction; Drug-Drug Interaction


Polypharmacy is a growing public health problem which is affecting multitudes worldwide. This emerging public health problem is defined as the routine use of five or more medicines by an individual patient. Many researchers believe that the prevalence of polypharmacy is going to keep increasing since more people are being diagnosed with chronic diseases. Polypharmacy is known to cause many problems such as adverse drug reactions, drug to drug interactions, wastage of resources and increased treatment costs. Countries should raise awareness of polypharmacy and find solutions to this problem. Healthcare professionals should be educated on the dangers of polypharmacy, medication safety and polypharmacy management. Polypharmacy management means a whole systems approach which avoids the use of unnecessary medication for multimorbid patients while maximizing pharmaceutical care. There is ongoing research to investigate polypharmacy because very little is known in the existing literature. This article describes polypharmacy in detail, including the prevalence of polypharmacy, the economic impact of polypharmacy, medication safety and polypharmacy management. This article aims to give a much deeper insight into polypharmacy.