As Polypharmacy Grows, Pharmacists Play Essential Role in Medication Education


By implementing easier systems of education for patients, the consequences of polypharmacy could potentially decrease.

According to the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Sciences’ Global Use of Medicines report for 2024, the defined daily doses are expected to increase in North America by 1.3% compound annual growth rate from 2024 to 2028, with an increase of 2.3% globally.1

Taking a lot of medicine, supplements ,antibiotic antidepressant or painkiller medication | Image Credit: Kotchakorn -

Image Credit: Kotchakorn -

Previously, in a study comparing the percentage of adults with polypharmacy from 1999 to 2000 and 2017 to 2018, the rate of polypharmacy rose from 8.2% to 17.1%. Polypharmacy had a greater prevalence in elderly individuals, adults with heart disease, and adults with diabetes, according to the study published in Global Health Research and Policy.2

Further, according to an article published by Pharmacy Times, polypharmacy is commonly seen in adults aged 65 years and older who have multiple disease states and could frequent a variety of specialty providers. With a lack of continuity among providers, patients can experience duplicate medications, drug-drug interactions, drug-disease state interactions, and an increased risk of adverse events.3 Additionally, polypharmacy is especially prevalent in complex diseases, including cancer, in which individuals can receive medication to treat cancer as well as their other comorbidities. Not only can duplicate therapies be prescribed, but drug-related costs can also pose an issue, the authors of the article wrote.4

Sometimes polypharmacy is inevitable for patients, so pharmacists play an important role in supplying information to patients about their medications. However, traditional models of education such as printed handouts can be easily discarded or misplaced, causing patients to lose access to this information. Consequently, they could struggle with adherence or face a higher safety risk due to their medications, especially as usage continues to grow, according to a press release from EnlivenHealth.5

“We believe EnlivenHealth’s [Digital Medication Information Delivery (DMID)] solution represents a significant step forward in modernizing patient care and pharmacy operations,” Martha Thorne, senior vice president and general manager of EnlivenHealth, said in a press release. “By providing patients with easy access to digital medication information, we seek to empower them to take control of their health, while reducing environmental impact. We are excited to partner with pharmacies to transform the patient experience.”5

Key Takeaways

  1. Traditional methods of patient education, like printed handouts, may not be sufficient.
  2. Easier access to information can help patients take control of their health and reduce the risks associated with polypharmacy.
  3. By implementing new educational tools and advocating for clear communication between providers, pharmacists can help ensure patients receive the medications they need and avoid unnecessary risks.

The DMID system is a patient engagement solution that electronically sends FDA-required medication information to patients. Content includes drug monographs, FDA medication guides, CDC vaccine information statements, and other health and medication literacy information. The goal of the system is to improve patient access and educations while promoting environmental and sustainability efforts, according to the press release.5

The company stated that it believes pharmacies can help optimize when medication information is shared and how it’s shared. For example, information can be sent as QR codes, SMS texts, mobile push notifications, or via emails to assist with patient education.5 In the study from Global Health Research and Policy, the study authors stated that clinical pharmacist-led interventions play a critical role in helping to reduce unnecessary prescribing.1 By implementing easier systems of education for patients, the consequences of polypharmacy might decrease.

  1. IQVIA Institute for Human Data Sciences. Report: Global Use of Medicines 2024: Outlook to 2018. January 2024. Accessed January 15, 2024. Email.
  2. Wang X, Liu K, Shirai K, et al. Prevalence and trends of polypharmacy in U.S. adults, 1999-2018. Glob Health Res Policy. 2023;8(1):25. doi:10.1186/s41256-023-00311-4
  3. Hassey A, Thompson S, Finley K. Impacts of Pharmacists on Polypharmacy in Elderly Population. Pharmacy Times. July 10, 2023. Accessed March 22, 2024.
  4. Achar S. Pharmacists Could Be Solution to Polypharmacy in Patients With Cancer. Pharmacy Times. October 4, 2023. Accessed March 22, 2024.
  5. EnlivenHealth Working to Transform How Pharmacies Deliver Medication Information to Patients. News release. EnlivenHealth. March 20, 2024. Accessed March 22, 2024.
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