Polypharmacy in elderly people is a social phenomenon that can become a situation that undermines their health.
Methodology: The objective was to review the topic of polypharmacy through bibliographical research. Scientific articles were searched through the databases available from the University of Costa Rica using the keywords. The documents were reviewed and selected those that, for convenience, helped to structure the indicated thematic axis. The following topics were addressed: conceptualization of polypharmacy, aspects related to the social phenomenon of polypharmacy, consequences and prevention of damages due to polypharmacy.
Results: It was found that there are several definitions of polypharmacy, as well as synonyms of that word (polytherapy, polymedicine, polymedicines, polyprescription, hyperpolypharmacy, polytherapeutics and polypragmasia); there are up to 26 tools to assess the presence of polypharmacy, which is conditioned to a set of characteristics related to the main actors (elderly people, professionals and the context); several mechanisms (revisions, follow-up, mapping, screening, surveys, interviews, lack of research, pharmacogenetics studies) are available to try to reduce the presence of polypharmacy and its various functional and cognitive consequences (adverse reactions, falls, gastrointestinal disorders, hospitalizations, mortality morbidity). The prevalence of polypharmacy varies from 5 to 78%, its presence can deteriorate the quality of life of the adult person and therefore requires actions in various instances through interdisciplinary work, multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary, with participation active participation of all social actors, especially the older adult; this with the intention of minimizing the impact of polypharmacy on older adults.
Conclusions: Polypharmacy is a public health problem that must be addressed in a good way. There is no single definition, rather several concepts are present, prevalence occurs in a wide range depending on the context. Although there are several social actors acting, the elderly person is the one who can be harmed in their quality of life by the lack of support from professionals or other people.