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Background, Goal and Objectives Polypharmacy PDF
Polypharmacy - weighing up the benefits and harms
Elderly people are at increased risk of drug related problems
Drugs associated with increased risk of adverse drug reactions in elderly people
Common drug interactions in elderly people
Recognising adverse drug reactions
Risk factors for drug related problems in elderly people
A really good recipe for DRP
Drug related harm; terms and definitions
Hospital admissions for adverse drug reactions
Commonly reported adverse drug reactions
References, Bibliography

  “But know also, man has an inborn craving for medicine ...the desire to take medicine is one feature which distinguishes man the animal, from his fellow creatures. It is really one of the most serious difficulties with which we have to contend.”
William Osler 1894
Full colour PDF of the Polypharmacy POEM.
 Printer friendly PDF.


Drug related problems cause significant preventable morbidity and mortality. Their economic cost is estimated to rank fourth in the developed world, behind cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. Drug related problems include adverse drug events, adverse drug reactions and drug interactions. Polypharmacy has various definitions and connotations in the literature ranging from the use of 4, 5, 6 or more drugs in combination to the more simplistic addition of just one inappropriate drug to an existing drug regimen. The addition of any drug is one too many if it provides no benefit and causes potential harm. Our definition of polypharmacy for the purpose of this campaign is: “the addition of one or more drugs to an existing regimen which provides no additional therapeutic benefit and/or causes drug related harm”. Elderly people on multiple medications are at particularly high risk of drug related problems.


The goal of this campaign is to decrease drug related problems in elderly people by reducing prescribing factors associated with increased risk.


  • To raise awareness of the increased risk of drug related problems associated with polypharmacy and to provide tools, including medicines review, to identify and manage high risk patients.
  • Identify and raise awareness of major categories of adverse drug reactions and high risk drug combinations in New Zealand.
  • Reduce the inappropriate use of high risk drugs and drug combinations especially in elderly people.
  • Reduce the “prescribing cascade” phenomenon.
“Don’t treat risk factors. Don’t even treat disease. Treat patients, and treat them as individuals
Professor John Campbell, 2005

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