Monday, October 3, 2016

Too Many Meds

According to Consumer Reports "On Health" newsletter, regularly taking five or more medications often does more harm than good. As the number of medications that a person uses increases, the chance of adverse reactions and side effects goes up dramatically. Interactions among drugs can magnify or diminish a drug's potency and effectiveness, and can sometimes trigger dangerous side effects.

An April 2016 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine by pharmacist Dr Dima Quato found that two out of three American adults aged 65 or older take five or more medications daily. And one in six of those who do are taking medications that should not be combined.

The best course may be to stay off medications, which an active lifestyle and healthy diet can certainly help you do. But sometimes medication just cannot (and should not) be avoided. If you are taking multiple medications, here are 4 free, simple things that you can do to lower your risk of side effects.

1. Use the same Pharmacy for all of your prescriptions. This will greatly reduce the chances of your taking medications that should not be taken together. Don't assume that because it is the same chain that such problems will be detected though, go to the same pharmacy every time.

2. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about non-drug alternatives. Often the are none, but you would be surprised at how often there are.

3. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about common side effects for any medication you take. Being aware of them can help you spot and deal with them before they cause any serious harm. Side effects are often subtle and may appear to be an unrelated issue. This often leads to "prescribing cascade"  when your doctor mistakenly prescribes another drug for the side effect, rather than stopping the drug that is causing it.

4. Read the insert that comes along with your prescription, and keep it handy for reference. Yes, I know it is even less exciting than re-reading your college chemistry text. But it has important information about when and how to take your medication and warnings about potential problems.

Finally, never abruptly stop taking any medication except under the supervision of your doctor. Some may need to be tapered off over time, or replaced with a different drug.

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