It can start out innocently enough. You go to your doctor for something or other… and before you know it, you’re leaving with an Rx in your hand.
But that’s not the end of it — not at all. That drug causes a side effect that needs to be offset by another med.
Then there’s your original complaint, which didn’t quite get fixed, so it’s time for even more prescriptions.
But that’s okay, right? We both know plenty of friends and relatives who take lots of drugs. Isn’t that just the way it goes as you get older?
Well, stop right there. Because not only is that little scenario wrong, wrong, and wrong, but adverse reactions to doctor-prescribed, taken-as-directed drugs are killing well over 100,000 Americans a year.
And those are numbers from the feds! Who knows what the actual tally is in the real world?
But what’s especially scary is that with each new drug you add to your routine, the bigger the risk that you’ll suffer a life-threatening reaction.
Lowering the bar for normal
For Nicole Lamber, her lineup of drugs began with a Xanax prescription to help her with a high-stress job as a physician’s assistant.
That soon escalated into meds for ADHD… ones to help her relax and get to sleep… then an additional sedative, along with drugs to treat the side effects from other drugs!
Eventually, the combined effects of all those medications made her so sick she couldn’t even leave her house. She describes herself as being “completely nonfunctional” during that time, suffering from diarrhea and constant pain.
Nicole was only in her early 30s when this started. For seniors, being prescribed multiple meds is almost routine. Why, after a certain age you’re practically issued a speed pass at the pharmacy!
And as a new study in Consumer Reports shows, the business of prescribing drugs has veered way out of control.
- Over half of those who take multiple drugs are prescribed them by more than one doctor. That means your specialist or primary-care physician may not even know what drugs you’re already taking before giving you another one.
- On average, 55 percent of Americans pop four different Rx drugs, and 75 percent regularly take OTC drugs (they count too!).
- Over a third of those in the U.S. who take multiple meds have not had that portfolio of prescriptions reviewed by a nurse or doctor to see if they can (or should) stop taking one or more.
On top of excessive use of risky drugs to treat a condition you may have, Consumer Reports also told about a diagnostic deception that eAlert readers have been warned of for years now — the “predisease” prescription.
One of the most popular is for “prediabetes,” in which your blood sugar is elevated but not enough to say you’re a diabetic. Well, there’s a drug for that!
And you’ll be risking the same serious side effects that a full-blown diabetic would if you take it.
The number of prediabetics has skyrocketed, but it’s not because everyone’s blood sugar is rising.
As a Duke University doctor says, those in the medical profession have been “lowering the bar for what’s considered normal.” That’s something the American Diabetes Association did with “normal” blood sugar readings around two decades ago!
And you can bet that’s the case for many other diseases as well.
You can’t count on your pharmacy red-flagging potentially bad combos, either. An expert who reviewed lists of the meds patients were currently taking found that 9 out of 10 had possible drug interactions.
Nicole Lamber finally got off her merry-go-round of Rx drugs, but she had to do so with the help of a doctor who worked with her to figure out which drugs were really necessary and which ones she could ditch.
Even so, she says, it “almost killed” her.
And that’s a risk anyone taking multiple meds is chancing.
So, the only real “fix” for this problem is to start asking your doctor questions — and not only about reducing your burden by eliminating drugs you’re currently taking.
It’s just as important to ask whether any new ones he may want to prescribe are really needed… and why.
“Too many meds? America’s love affair with prescription medication” Teresa Carr, August 3, 2017, Consumer Reports, consumerreports.org