Researchers have termed as 'misleading' the commonly-held assumption that taking several medicines for multiple health conditions is hazardous.
According to them, polypharmacy - where patients, generally older adults (those aged over 65 years), use multiple medications - needs more sophisticated approaches to assess the suitability of each patient's set of medicines.
"Today, we have more elderly people and also a rising number of people are being diagnosed with multiple health conditions," said lead author Rupert Payne who works at the Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research.
Working with colleagues in Nottingham and Glasgow, Payne analysed data for 180,815 adults with long-term clinical conditions.
They found that for patients with only a single medical condition, taking 10 or more medications was associated with a more than three-fold increase in an unplanned hospitalisation compared to patients who took only one to three medicines.
However, patients with six or more medical conditions who used 10 or more medications only increased their chance of admission by 1.5 times - compared to the group taking one to three medicines, said the study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.
"This work is highly relevant to the development and assessment of prescribing skills in general practice where the majority of long-term clinical care is undertaken and where doctors often prescribe drugs for long periods of time," said Payne.
"The research demonstrates the need for more sophisticated and nuanced approaches when measuring the impact of polypharmacy in future clinical research," he added.