Dangers of Polypharmacy

This is one of the best recent articles I’ve read on polypharmacy–taking five or more medications a day.

The New York Times – Health
The Dangers of ‘Polypharmacy,’ the Ever-Mounting Pile of Pills
by Paula Span
April 22, 2016

Here are some key points made in the article, published in today’s New York Times:

  • While drug interactions can occur in any age group, over 15% of older adults are at risk for a major drug interaction.
  • Older people are more vulnerable. “Most have multiple chronic diseases, so they take more drugs, putting them at higher risk for threatening interactions. The consequences can also be more threatening. ‘They’re more prone to fall, because they don’t have the same reserves of balance and strength’ as the young or middle-aged, [Dr. Michael A. Steinman, a geriatrician at the University of California, San Francisco] said. ‘And if they do fall because they’re dizzy, they’re more likely to get hurt.'”
  • “Some common combinations that cropped up in the study and could spell trouble: aspirin and the anti-clotting drug clopidogrel (Plavix)…; aspirin and naproxen (Aleve); …the cholesterol drug simvastatin (Zocor) and the blood pressure medication amlodipine (Norvasc).”
  • “[Patients] and families can ask their physicians for brown bag reviews, including every supplement, and discuss whether to continue or change their regimens. Pharmacists, often underused as information sources, can help coordinate medications, and some patients qualify for medication reviews through Medicare.”
  • We don’t consider when medications should be stopped.

Some of you may want to check out the NYT website and investigate some of the links within the article.