Polypharmacy: Dangers of A Weak Medical “Triad”

June 5, 2012
Polypharmacy is the fourth leading cause of death behind cancer, stroke, and heart disease in America. Polypharmacy is the practice of consuming multiple medications over any period of time. Nearly a 100,000 people die every year from polypharmacy, and nearly 2 million people are hospitalized. These scary numbers are the result of a lack of knowledge about medication, poor relationship within the medical “triad”, illnesses, and how easily it is to obtain medications. The amount of people affected by this proves that there needs to be more preventive measures taken. This bad practice is a growing issue in this country and preventive measures need to be taken in order to save lives of many people.
Being ill will normally cause a patient to have to consume a lot of medications. Typically, to fight off the serious illness, a patient needs to consume numerous amounts of medications prescribed by a doctor. On average, a breast cancer patient takes about 5 medications per day, but then they may consume even more medications due to other illnesses they may have besides the cancer. Other illnesses like high cholestrol and high blood pressure can be a reason for prescribed multiple medications.

A lack of knowledge pertaining to the medications that one intakes can cause the practice of bad polypharmacy. Being unaware of a majority of the side effects is dangerous. There are on average a minimum of a 100 side effects per prescription medicine. The severity of the side effects can range from unnoticeable to harmful. But regardless of the severity, it is important to know what will happen to the body as certain medications are consumed. It is also important to know what medications to not mix with others, certain combinations can lead to harmful effects on the body. What a patient does not know, may hurt them.


Because medications nowadays are much easier to obtain anyone can be at risk for bad polypharmacy. Just because the medicine is easy to get, that does not mean that it cannot be harmful. There are deaths that involve overdosing on sleeping pills, everyday medications, and alcohol. For example, celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, and Heath Ledger all died from over consumption of medication. They were all somewhat careless about the medicine they took, and unfortunately the cost was their life.


Unstable emotions are another reason why there has been a surge in deaths and hospitalization in America. Some people are more emotionally unstable than others and may depend on medications to help them deal with their problems.If patients depend on medication to make them feel better, this can be detrimental to their lives. Marilyn Monroe, a famous American icon, died because of the stress she faced from her divorce and the attention from the media. Her inability to properly deal with her problems that occur in her life ultimately cost her her life.

Michael Jackson’s death is a prime example of why an efficient relationship with your doctor is crucial. His poor relationship with his doctor ultimately cost him his life. Dr. Conrad Murray was unnecessarily prescribing Michael medication to his liking. If Michael wanted a medication, he would get it, even if it was not needed. Dr. Murray may have felt obliged to do this because Michael was his personal patient that paid him large amounts of money. This poor relationship took one of America’s most famous icons his life, and put a doctor to jail. This should be a lesson to all patients and doctors, showing that a strong relationship is key in order to maintain proper health of a patient.

To minimize the administration of unnecessary medicine, a stronger relationship with medical officials, such as a doctor, pharmacist, and nurse is important. If the medical officials develop an interest for a patient, they may pay closer attention to the patienta’ needs. Everyone is human, so favoritism in the workplace is not unlikely. If it is possible to get on a medical officials “good side,” the patients concerns can be taken to greater consideration.

Proper cooperation with is key for developing a better relationship. Listening to all of the information given is important in keeping track of the medications. Patients should consider taking notes or tape recordings of what the medical official tells them. This is especially helpful to people that have trouble with their memory. If they have it written down, they can always look back at their notes to help them recall their responsibilities. When a patient forgets what their doctors or pharmacist tells them, they can neglect their responsibilities needed for their medications.

Asking questions to clarify information can create a stronger relationship. Not understanding concepts or responsibilities is dangerous. If those concepts and responsibilities are not fully comprehended, then negligence of the medication is likely. However, by asking questions and expressing concerns shows that the patient is actually listening and appreciates the information that is given. If a patient shows that they care, then the medical official will put in more effort to satisfy the patients needs. But, if a patient seems uninterested, it is possible for the medical official to show minimal effort in helping the patient.

Trying to involve a more active bond between the doctor and pharmacist can create less room for error when prescribing unnecessary medicine. Developing a better relationship with a patient’s doctor and pharmacist is crucial to prescribing medicine. If the doctor makes a mistake, then the pharmacist can catch the error and correct it. The pharmacist can also make a mistake and the doctor can catch and correct it. With better communication among all three parties, a better circulation of information is created and this reduces medical errors and can create less room for medical errors.
Compared the roles of the patient, doctor, and pharmacist to see the where the weak areas in the relationship were.

There are many tips that will ultimately help minimize polypharmacy and keep the patient as healthy as possible. If a patient desires more time with their medical official, it is a good idea to visit them on less busy days. Often long lines with large amounts of people can cause both parties to feel the need to rush through appointments. The large crowds can cause the patient to feel rushed, and they may not be able to express their concerns or ask the questions they need. With more time in a patient's hand, they can talk to their medical official about all or most of their concerns and questions..


Being friendly and active with questions can help a patient better understand their responsibilities. The more questions asked the more answers they get. The more answers received goes towards the patients better understanding of how to deal with their medication. One of the worst things a patient can do when dealing with their medication does not fully comprehend the effects it can have on the body. Some people may live by the quote “what you do not know cannot hurt you.” This quote should not be applied to the consumption of medication because what someone may not know about their medic
Doctors and pharmacists will ask what medications that you are currently taking, this will help them know what medication they should or should not prescribe because it can negatively counter act with medication they are already taking. When going to an appointment as a patient, it is important to know all of the medication that is being taken. Memorizing and then verbally telling the medical official all the medicine that is taken can cause miscommunication and confusion. Someone may mishear the name of the medicine and prescribe a medication that is dangerous when combined with the original name of the medication. To prevent this miscommunication from occurring, the patient should write down the name of all the medicine they take, and the amount of dosages they consume. This allows the patient to not forget certain medicines that they take. When the doctor sees the entire list, they can then decide what medicine is necessary to prescribe based on the medication that is already taken.
A well-developed relationship between a patient and their medical officials is crucial in keeping and maintaining good health. It is critical to stay friendly and active when communicating with the doctors and pharmacist. Being active will create less room for error because of the constant questions being asked and concerns being told. Being friendly will allow doctors and patients to care even more about a patient's problem(s). Dealing with numerous medications can be complicated and confusing. But not knowing the dangers and precautions makes the situation a lot worse. If a patient is more knowledgeable on their medication consequences or effects, they can be safer and smarter with their medication consumptions. Medicines are supposed to help someone heal, but if patients are careless then they can do the exact opposite. Applying these factors will help keep a patient on track of all the dangers that could occur when they practice polypharmacy.





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