Associate Professor Sarah Hilmer: Living with multiple medicines

Hear A/Prof Sarah Hilmer speak about the challenges for patients who take multiple medicines.

Main occupation: Clinical pharmacologist
Years in clinical practice: 16
Qualifications: BScMed (Hons), MBBS (Hons), FRACP, PhD

Associate Professor Sarah Hilmer is a clinical pharmacologist and geriatrician at a hospital in Sydney. As well as seeing patients, she undertakes research and teaches at a university.

Most of her patients are over 85 years of age. They have complicated medication regimens involving eight or more medicines and are confused or are having falls. Associate Professor Hilmer also sees patients of all ages for problems due to their medicines.

Associate Professor Hilmer talks about what people can expect from a hospital visit in relation to their medicines: the discussions they will have, the information they will receive and what will happen when they go home. She talks about what people can do to avoid having to go to hospital because of their medicines. She describes the kinds of things people need to keep in mind and what they should look out for if they take a number of medicines. She also defines terms such as ‘polypharmacy’, ‘drug–drug interactions’ and ‘drug–disease interactions’.

Associate Professor Hilmer explains why a medicine that a patient has been on for a long time and was told they would have to take ‘forever’ might need to be changed. She describes how stopping a medicine may be the best way to manage a patient’s condition and that this does not mean their doctor is ‘giving up on them’.


Listen to Associate Professor Sarah Hilmer

Associate Professor Hilmer describes some of the problems with multiple medicines that can mean people have to go to hospital.
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Associate Professor Hilmer explains what people need to do with respect to their medicines once they go home from hospital, particularly if their medicines regimen has been altered.
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We asked Associate Professor  Hilmer for her perspective on our definition of multiple medicines being ‘five or more medicines’. Her view is that polypharmacy is a ‘red flag’ that signals a greater risk of having problems with medicines. She describes what people who take a number of medicines need to be aware of.
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Associate Professor Hilmer explains that, while pharmacists have a lot to offer, people really need to see their doctor if they have any questions or concerns about their medicines.
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Associate Professor Hilmer specialises in medicines in older people. She describes what people can expect regarding their medicines when they go to hospital.
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Associate Professor Hilmer points out that the most important thing about medicines lists is not the form they take, but that the information they contain is current.
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Associate Professor Hilmer explains that advances in medical science and people’s needs change over time, which means their medicines may also need to change.
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Associate Professor Hilmer gives her views on what is important for people to know about their medicines.
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Associate Professor Hilmer encourages people to talk to their doctor to make sure they need to take all of their medicines and to ask for help with taking their medicines.
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The Living with multiple medicines project was developed in collaboration with

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