The management of polypharmacy in people with cancer and chronic conditions

J P Turner, R A McKinnon, J. Simon Bell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Polypharmacy has a broad definition, encompassing the use of multiple medications, the use of more medications than necessary, or the use of inappropriate medications. Polypharmacy itself is not necessarily inappropriate, however, it has been associated with negative outcomes in patients with multiple chronic conditions. For people diagnosed with cancer, medications may be prescribed to treat cancer, ameliorate symptoms, improve quality of life and to manage or prevent future complications of chronic diseases. However, the potential benefits of each medication need to be balanced against the potential harms. For example, in studies of older people with cancer, polypharmacy has been associated with greater risk of chemotherapy discontinuation, mortality, grade III-IV toxicity, drug-drug interactions, drug-disease interactions, increased treatment cost and increased use of potentially inappropriate medications (PIMs). Although the possibility confounding by indication cannot be excluded, the results of these studies suggest it is prudent to conduct a comprehensive medication review in patients at risk of adverse drug events. The goal of medication review is not necessarily to reduce a patient’s number of medications, but rather to ensure that each medication is appropriate for the patient’s goal of care, with an acceptable benefit to risk ratio.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCancer and Chronic Conditions
Subtitle of host publicationAddressing the Problem of Multimorbidity in Cancer Patients and Survivors
EditorsBogda Koczwara
Place of PublicationSingapore
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9789811018442
ISBN (Print)9789811018435
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Adverse drug events
  • Deprescribing
  • Drug-drug interactions
  • Polypharmacy
  • Potentially inappropriate medication

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