Americans are mixing too many drugs together and it is scary

Americans are mixing too many drugs together and it is scary

According to new research, Americans are mixing too many drugs together and it is scary.

The researchers found in the study that one in every six seniors regularly use potentially life-threatening combinations of drugs and dietary supplements.

These findings suggest that the unsafe use of multiple medications among older adults is a growing public health problem,” Dima Qato of the University of Illinois at Chicago and colleagues wrote in their report.

Approximately one in six older adults may be at risk for a major drug-drug interaction,” they also wrote.

The study abstract the following about the study design:

Descriptive analyses of a longitudinal, nationally representative sample of community-dwelling older adults 62 to 85 years old. In-home interviews with direct medication inspection were conducted in 2005-2006 and again in 2010-2011…We defined medication use as the use of at least 1 prescription or over-the-counter medication or dietary supplement at least daily or weekly and defined concurrent use as the regular use of at least 2 medications. We used Micromedex to identify potential major drug-drug interactions.

In 2005, about 30 percent of the study participants said that they were taking 5 or more medications. In 2011, that number rose to almost 36 percent. When accounting for supplements and over the counter meds as well, they found that 67 percent of the participants took five or more medications in 2011 compared to the 53 percent in 2006.

Most of the interacting regimens we identified involved statins, antiplatelets (e.g, clopidogrel and aspirin), NSAIDs, or omega-3 fish oils, which may not only lead to adverse drug events due to drug-drug interactions but also worsen cardiovascular risk,” the researchers wrote.

For example, many used the anti-blood clot drug clopidogrel in combination with NSAIDs or omeprazole, which can raise the risk of internal bleeding or heart attack risk.

There are many older adults who would be healthier if they threw away half of their medications. Yet there are people with multiple chronic diseases who can benefit from multidrug therapy,” Dr. Michael Steinman of the University of California, San Francisco wrote.

According to Steinman, it is possible to set up a system to keep a better eye on what combinations of drugs patients take.

First, we need a comprehensive, portable, and truly informative medication list that the patient helps to maintain. This list would comprise all of a patient’s medications, including over-the-counter and alternative therapies,” he said.

Second, we need a team approach to monitoring medication effectiveness and adverse effects. Consider the success of warfarin clinics. Pharmacists, nurses, and other health care professionals can be creatively engaged to systematize the process of medication monitoring and follow-up, complementing the role of the physician,” Steinman added.

Third, we need real patient engagement, supported by the whole health care team. This includes the targeted use of health coaches, who have been shown to markedly improve outcomes by helping patients communicate with and assert themselves to their physicians.”

Taking combinations of drugs is not always a bad thing, Steinman said.

Numbers are not the enemy. Unnecessary, ineffective, and harmful prescribing is.”

The study showing that Americans are mixing too many drugs together was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

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1. “Americans Mix It Up Too Much With Drugs, Study Finds.” NBC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.
2. “1 in 6 Seniors Combines Meds, Supplements.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.
3. “Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medication and Dietary Supplement Use.” JAMA Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.

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