Polypharmacy – Taking Too Many Medicines

One of the questions I get all too often from my patients, particularly the older ones who are way too many medications, is “Will this new medicine react with the ones I’m already taking?”

I answer by telling them, “Scientifically, we know how one medicine reacts with another. When you add a third one though, everything we know goes out the window. How about if you’re already on ten or more medicines?”

Sadly, many of our parents and grandparents, are on way too many medications. And this phenomenon has already trickled down into our generation and that of our children! I routinely see college students who are on 3-4 medications: an anti-depressant (seems like these are almost as universally used as aspirin used to be), an ADHD medicine (seems pretty standard for a lot of kids these days as well), birth control for many girls and then whatever variety of meds they may be on for asthma, allergies or other medical conditions. Our bodies have literally become pharmacies and then we wonder why we get so sick!

Statistically – especially for the providers out there – the likelihood of a patient complying with a regimen of medical treatment goes down by 50% when you reach four daily medicines. That means that half of your patients (who are on at least 4 meds) will be taking medicines not at all, haphazardly or in the wrong way out of confusion, forgetfulness or carelessness.

How to solve the problem? From a patient perspective, talk to your provider if you are concerned that you are on too many medications. See if there are any combination products that can help you lower the number of medicines that you are on. Secondly, remember that not every problem requires a pill or prescription. This is especially true when it comes to medications for depression. This is a serious subject though which I hope to write a proper post on soon.

From the provider perspective, remember to do no harm. Closely examine your patient’s medication list to make sure there are no redundancies – a very common occurrence. Also, try to help your patient’s find non-pharmacological ways to deal with their problems.

A friend sent me this great video made by Cafe of Life that probably says it better than I ever could – hope you like it as much as I did. Click here to watch.

Advertisements

4 Responses to Polypharmacy – Taking Too Many Medicines

  1. Davis says:

    Just had my annual physical yesterday so this is good stuff to hear. Thanks for the post.

  2. Sabra says:

    My mother was at one point on a humongous amount of medications. She has rheumatoid arthritis, and her doctor was just adding things on when one thing didn’t work. It wasn’t until I questioned why she was still taking four different medications, none of which helped her, that she thought to talk to her doctor about it, and he did discontinue the ones that weren’t doing any good.

  3. warmsocks says:

    As one of those reluctantly taking too many drugs (one NSAID, two DMARDs, and a CCB), I had to find a way to make sure I take everything on time. Sure, I’d like a return to the days of no pills, but given that I’ll end up in a wheelchair if I don’t take my medicine, I am highly motivated to follow my treatment plan. A pill-sorter keeps track of my vitamins. I made a checklist for am/pm prescriptions; this list is taped to the door of the cupboard by my pill bottles. I highlight each line when I swallow that pill, which makes it easy to check back to see whether I remembered my meds on any given day.

  4. TUNDE says:

    YEP, YOU SEE MEDICATIONS AND THE PATIENT EXPLAINS, “AND THIS ONE MED IS TO TAKE CARE OF THE SIDE EFFECT OF THAT, AND THIS TO HELP ME WITH OTHER SIDE EFFECT OF THAT”, AND THE LIST GOES ON. IT IS SUCH A DRAG WHEN YOU ADMIT THEM, AND THEN YOU HAVE TO LIST PAGES OF MEDICATIONS INTO YOU COMPUTER. BEFORE THE COMPUTER SYSTEM WAS USED IN ALL HOSPITALS, IT WAS EASY, WE MADE A COPY, NOW WE HAVE TO TYPE THEM ALL INTO THE SYSTEM…NO WONDER PEOPLE GETTING SICKER WHEN THEY ARE ON SO MANY MEDICATIONS. LOL

    WHEN I WENT TO THE DOCTOR AND THEY ASKED ME WHAT MEDICATION I AM TAKING REGULARLY THEY WERE SHOCKED WHEN I TOLD THEM NOTHING BUT VITAMINS. THE NURSE EVEN ASKED ME “WHY ARE YOU HERE THEN”? YEH I WONDERED WHY.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: