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ISMP Canada Safety Bulletins

Canadian Medication Incident Reporting and Prevention System (CMIRPS)

Latest Bulletin Issue 3
Deprescribing: Managing Medications to Reduce Polypharmacy

The World Health Organization has highlighted polypharmacy as one of the key focus areas of its Third Global Patient Safety Challenge, Medication Without Harm. The term "polypharmacy" has multiple definitions, but the most common is the concurrent use of 5 or more medications (including both prescription and nonprescription products) by a single individual. Polypharmacy exists when the theoretical benefits of multiple medications is outweighed by the negative effects of the sheer number of medications. Polypharmacy is not solely about the number of medications used, but also about the effectiveness, utility, and potential harm of each medication, both individually or in combination.