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Am I on Too Many Medications?

Learn about 'polypharmacy'

Man looking at prescription drugs

About 80 percent of older Americans live with at least one chronic or continuing condition. More than 50 percent of older adults have been diagnosed with five or more chronic conditions, according to a study by AARP. As a result, doctors often prescribe many medications to address chronic conditions, resulting in polypharmacy.

What is polypharmacy?

Polypharmacy is the use of multiple medications at the same time. It also refers to taking more medications than are necessary. Polypharmacy can cause:

  • Increased chances of medication mistakes

  • More work managing more pills

  • Bad reactions from mixing medications

  • Greater costs

  • More emergency room visits and hospitalizations

How do I know if I am on too many medications?

You can begin by asking yourself these questions:

  • Are you on more than four medications?

  • Do you think you are taking more medications than you need?

  • Would you like to know if any of your medications can be changed or stopped?

  • Do you need to know more about why you are on your medications?

If you answered 'yes' to one or more of these questions, make a point to talk to your health care team about your concerns at your next visit. You can also sign in to Secure Messaging and ask before your next appointment. It's important to keep track of your medications and talk with your health care team regularly to see if any adjustments need to be made.

How does My HealtheVet's Pharmacy feature help?

You can use tools in My HealtheVet's Pharmacy section, to stay on top of managing your medications. These include:

  • Refill VA Prescriptions: refill VA prescriptions, track delivery, receive shipment email notifications, and much more.

  • VA Prescription History: review past and current VA-dispensed prescriptions online.

  • My VA Medications List: record your VA prescriptions, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Use the VA Blue Button to download and print your medication list. You can bring it to all your care teams for a full review on a regular basis.

  • My Medications + Supplements: View and self-enter medications, over-the-counter products, and supplements online in one secure location.

  • My VA Health Summary: The VA Health Summary contains specific information from your VA medical record. You can use it to review your VA care and to share your information with community providers, family, or others who help you with your health.

To access the Pharmacy section of My HealtheVet, you must be logged into your personal My HealtheVet account. If you do not have an account, you can register here.

Though most of your active prescription(s) can be refilled online, not all your medicine(s) may be displayed.

My HealtheVet does NOT include notations about non-VA medications that your health care team added to your VA Medical Record, and medications that are or were given in a clinic or Emergency Department (such as clinic medications). Talk to your health care team about putting this information into your VA Notes in My HealtheVet.

If you cannot view prescription(s) that should be displayed, contact your local VA Pharmacy for information. The phone number for the VA Pharmacy can be found on the prescription label.

Please vote in our unscientific poll. All responses are anonymous.

Have you discussed medications from different doctors with your primary care doctor?