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Too Many Meds: Americans Overdoing it with Prescription Drugs

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By    |   Monday, 04 Sep 2017 05:28 PM

More than half of Americans — 55 percent — are taking four different prescription medications on average, more than ever before in U.S. history and, by far, the greatest percentage of any country on Earth.

That’s the key conclusion of a new analysis in Consumer Reports that claims that notes the record rate of prescriptions is in addition to daily vitamins, dietary supplements, and other over-the-counter medications taken by tens of millions of Americans.

So, are Americans relying on too many medications in the quest for good health? The answer may lie not in the number of prescriptions, but in an analysis of complex medical conditions and how they are treated.

Emily P. Peron, assistant professor of pharmacotherapy and a clinical researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, said that the challenge is determining who really needs multiple medications and when such drugs may do more harm than good.

“If you have a heart attack you come out of the hospital with at least seven drugs,” she tells Newsmax Health.

“I see patients who are taking no meds, to those who are on up to 20. The medications tend to stay around, but ownership changes. A patient will have different doctors and different pharmacies, and doctors are reluctant to change something if they don’t know why it was prescribed.”

Peron, who works primarily with patients age 65 and up, specializes in managing multiple medications. A common problem she sees is patients who continue to stay on medications — or certain dosages — long after they may have out-lived their usefulness.

“The most common thing I see is adults who think their parent is confused or struggling,” she says. “The individual drug may be appropriate but the dosage hasn’t changed in years. For instance, someone taking Tylenol PM, which has Benadryl in it, may become more tired and confused.”

While pharmaceuticals for the over-65 crowd can be confusing, a complex medication regimen is hard for anyone to keep track of, she notes. The key is to work with your doctor to be sure you’re taking the appropriate medication at the right dosages.

“The best thing is to build a relationship with a healthcare professional that you trust,” Peron says. “They should be aware of every medication that you take. The dream would be that it is all computerized and interlinked.”

In the meantime, while we wait for accurate computerized records to become the norm, patients (and caretakers of patients), should keep medication lists.

“Write down questions before you see your doctor,” Peron advises. “Have a discussion and let the doctor address potential challenges. This should be a regular part of a primary care appointment.”

Peron also recommends that anyone taking medication — prescription, over the counter, and supplements — should make a point of having a “Medication Therapy Management” (MTM) session, or, what used to be known as a “Brown Bag Review,” with his or her pharmacist.

“This is usually covered under Medicare, but some pharmacies will charge a fee,” she says. “MTM is a step up. You are bringing together all of your medications, lab values, and medical conditions. The pharmacist gives you a check list and goes over everything for 30 to 60 minutes.”

While an older person may benefit most from MTM, just because of the number of medications involved, it is a valuable process for anyone who takes prescriptions.

“I struggle with the over-medication of the U.S.,” Peron says. “I worry about my patients and my parents. Things get complicated, diseases worsen, and you may need multiple medications.”

Peron’s own research showed that between 1988 and 2010 the median number of prescription medication doubled from two to four. The proportion of older adults taking five or more prescriptions tripled over the same time period.

She adds that up to 75 percent of doctor’s visits end with a new prescription.

“We want to advocate judicious prescribing,” she says. “My focus is on making sure patients are taking what they need. We have become a country that is over reliant on medicine.”

In many cases, Consumer Reports notes, lifestyle changes can be as effective, or more so, than doctor prescriptions. For instance:

  • Kegel exercises help with urinary incontinence.
  • Weight loss and diet can manage heartburn.
  • Exercise combats arthritis.
  • A healthy diet and regular exercise stave off obesity.
  • Non-drug therapies combat depression.

Peron also recommends the following tips for managing medications:

  1. Ask questions about your condition and the drug that your doctor is prescribing.
  2. Don’t assume that new symptoms mean another disease; sometimes doctors prescribe for another condition when the symptoms are actually the result of the first drug.
  3. Don’t stop taking a drug, or begin taking a new OTC medication, without checking with the doctor first.
  4. Follow dosing instructions — correct doses at the prescribed time.
  5. If meds are intended for a growing child, or a frail elderly person, take into account size of dosages and changing weight.

© 2017 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.

   
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More than half of Americans now take four different prescription medications on average, more than ever before in U.S. history, a new report shows. Experts say the findings spotlight the overuse of medications, some of which may do more harm than good.
over, medication, prescribing, drugs
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2017-28-04
Monday, 04 Sep 2017 05:28 PM
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