Geriatric patients consume a disproportionate number
of medications, compared with the rest of the US population. Polypharmacy,
the use of multiple prescribed and over-the-counter medications and nutritional
supplements, is a cause of adverse drug reactions. The chronic use of 2 medications
simultaneously is associated with a 15% risk for adverse drug reaction, but the
use of 5 drugs results in a risk of over 50%. Rather than age, the number of
medications taken appears related to adverse effects in older adults.
Institutionalized geriatric residents take a large number of medications, with
cardiovascular, analgesic, and central nervous system agents being the most
- Adverse drug reactions in older adults appear unrelated to the number
of medications taken.
1. Dharmarajan TS, Tota R. Appropriate prescribing of medications in older adults. Fam Pract Recert 2000;22:29-38.
2. Leipzig RM. Pharmacology and appropriate prescribing. In: Cobbs EL, Duthie EH, Murphy JB, editors. Geriatrics review syllabus, 4th ed. Dubuque (IA):
Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co; 1999:30-5.
3. Schwartz JB. Clinical pharmacology. In: Hazzard WR, Blass JP, Ettinger WH, et al, editors. Principles of geriatric medicine and gerontology. 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, Health Professions Division; 1999:303-31.
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