Multiple diseases and polypharmacy in the elderly: challenges for the internist of the third millennium

Alessandro Nobili, Silvio Garattini, Pier Mannuccio Mannucci


The pattern of patients admitted to internal medicine wards has dramatically changed in the last 20–30 years. Elderly people are now the most rapidly growing proportion of the patient population in the majority of Western countries, and aging seldom comes alone, often being accompanied by chronic diseases, comorbidity, disability, frailty, and social isolation. Multiple diseases and multimorbidity inevitably lead to the use of multiple drugs, a condition known as polypharmacy. Over the last 20–30 years, problems related to aging, multimorbidity, and polypharmacy have become a prominent issue in global healthcare. This review discusses how internists might tackle these new challenges of the aging population. They are called to play a primary role in promoting a new, integrated, and comprehensive approach to the care of elderly people, which should incorporate age-related issues into routine clinical practice and decisions. The development of new approaches in the frame of undergraduate and postgraduate training and of clinical research is essential to improve and implement suitable strategies meant to evaluate and manage frail elderly patients with chronic diseases, comorbidity, and polypharmacy.

Journal of Comorbidity 2011;1(1):28–44


adverse drug reactions, aging, geriatrics, internal medicine, multimorbidity, polypharmacy

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    ISSN 2235-042X