Too Many Pills for Aging Patients
Overmedication of the elderly is an all too common problem, a public health crisis that compromises the well-being of growing numbers of older adults. Many take fistfuls of prescription and over-the-counter medications on a regular basis, risking serious and sometimes fatal side effects and drug interactions.
Older adults like my aunt are the largest consumers of medications. More than 40 percent of people over age 65 take five or more medications, and each year about one-third of them experience a serious adverse effect, like a bone-breaking fall, disorientation, inability to urinate, even heart failure.
Too often, people with multiple health problems have one doctor who does not know what another has prescribed. A new prescription can lead to a toxic drug interaction, or simply be ineffective, because it is counteracted by something else being taken.
There is nothing to be gained, and potentially much to lose, by failing to disclose to health care professionals the use of prescribed, over-the-counter or recreational drugs, including alcohol. Nor should any chronic medical condition or prior adverse drug reaction be kept from your doctor.
Whenever a medication is prescribed, patients should ask about side effects to watch for. If a bad or unexpected reaction occurs or the drug does not seem to be working, the prescribing doctor should be told without delay. But patients should never stop taking a prescribed medication without first consulting a health care professional.
Nor should they add any drug or supplement to a prescribed regimen without first consulting a doctor. Even something as seemingly innocent as ibuprofen, acetaminophen,St. John’swort or an antihistamine purchased over the counter can sometimes lead to dangerous adverse reactions when combined with certain prescribed medications or pre-existing health problems.
Source: The New York Times, Health and Science
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