Polypharmacy in Elderly People – Drug Therapy Example

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"Polypharmacy in Elderly People" is a great example of a paper on drug therapy. Polypharmacy is the intake of more than one medication by one person. This is common among patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart ailments, and kidney diseases, because these illnesses affect not only one organ system. In theory, these diseases should present during the later years in life, in which the body breaks down after years of bombardment with unhealthy living conditions. Indeed, in a retrospective case series analysis by Marinella, Jones & Markert (2002) to describe the characteristics of centenarians, it was noted that polypharmacy is common among those 100 years and older, more so among those in nursing facilities, who possibly had more chronic illnesses and poorer overall health than the community dwellers.

In addition, almost a quarter of those with polypharmacy were taking inappropriate medications.     Certain physiologic characteristics of the elderly further complicate the issue of polypharmacy. As one ages, organs decline in function. Kidneys have noted decreased filtration rates, leading to a decline in the excretion of toxic substances, and a subsequent reduction of drug clearance.

The liver’ s production of blood proteins such as albumin is also lowered considerably. A lower drug clearance, together with hypoalbuminemia, increases the free drug levels in an elderly person’ s bloodstream. As a result. this population is more susceptible to adverse drug effects (ADE) and drug interactions, especially if with polypharmacy. Aside from ADE, there may be an increased propensity to falls and injuries due to polypharmacy, because they have to be mobilized, either with aid or on their own, in order to take their medications.    


Marinella, M. A., Jones, N., & Markert, R. J. (2002). Characteristics of Centenarians Admitted to a Community Teaching Hospital. South Med. J., 95(2). Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/429541
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