Be proactive when mixing prescription drugs8 years ago | Prescription Drugs
By pH health care professionals
More than likely, either you or someone close to you is taking a prescription drug. Sometimes, people take multiple medications to manage coexisting health problems, like diabetes and hypertension. This is called polypharmacy. But while keeping your medical conditions under control is important, polypharmacy can become a problem when too many medications are prescribed by multiple specialists working independently of each other, or when drug interactions occur because no single doctor knows your complete medication picture.
Who is most affected?
Since polypharmacy is a consequence of having several underlying medical conditions, it is much more common in elderly patients. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, patients 65-years-old and older are the largest consumers of prescription and nonprescription medications in the U.S., and the use of prescription and nonprescription medications among this group has more than doubled since 1990 and continues to rise. Current statistics indicate that 44 percent of men and 57 percent of women age 65 and older take five or more medications per week. About 12 percent of both men and women take 10 or more medications per week.
People are on multiple medications because they:
- Are receiving treatment for multiple medication conditions
- Are undergoing treatment from several different doctors working independently
- Need relief from various symptoms (headache, pain, upset stomach, etc.)
- Are experiencing side effects from medication, requiring a different medication for relief
What are some strategies for preventing polypharmacy problems?
- Use only one pharmacy to obtain your prescriptions. Post the name and telephone number of your local pharmacy somewhere prominent.
- Keep an accurate list of all medications, including generic and brand names, dosages, dosing frequency and reason for taking the drug.
- Keep a complete list of medical providers and their contact information.
- Make sure you understand each medication, including its name, appearance, purpose and effects. Ask your doctor and pharmacist any questions you have.
- Be aware of potential adverse effects, interactions and drug-related problems that warrant emergency care.
- Take all medications to your medical appointments.
- Avoid sharing medications.
- Dispose of all expired medications.
- Get a patient advocate! Have one of our qualified pH patient advocates, who are also medical doctors, review your diagnosis, treatment plan and medications and provide an objective second opinion. An advocate can guide you, provide recommendations and help ensure your providers are all on the same page, so you get the level of care you need. Contact us to learn more.
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