Do you know how many of the medications you take you really need? Far too often, prescriptions pile up. Unless patients are paying close attention, they can end up with excess medicines without realizing it.
Identifying Excess Medicines:
Q. My elderly mom had started falling so often that my siblings and I were seriously considering nursing home care. My brother gathered all her medications and took them to her doctor.
A review of the meds showed that mom was on six different blood pressure medications. Every time the medications were changed, the old one was not discontinued. Neither her doctor nor the pharmacist had caught this.
It has now been over a year since mom’s medications were corrected, and she is 92 years old. She has not fallen even once since the adjustment to her meds. As a result, she is still living at home. Why didn’t anyone catch this earlier?
Avoiding Falls Due to Excess Medicines:
A. Falls are a leading cause of fractures, disability and death, especially in older people. Drugs that cause dizziness are especially troublesome. Six blood pressure meds are excessive and would likely cause such complications.
Americans Take a Lot of Medicines:
A recent survey by Consumer Reports (Sept. 2017) noted that over half of Americans take an average of four prescription drugs daily. That can lead to side effects and drug interactions.
Older people are at particular risk for problems like dizziness or memory difficulties. Pharmacies may not have a system for identifying overprescribing. That means it is up to the patient and the family to be vigilant to avoid excess medicines.
To help with this effort, we are sending you our Guide to Drugs and Older People. It lists a number of medicines that may be inappropriate for older individuals.
If you prefer to order by mail rather than online, you may send $3 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (70 cents), self-addressed envelope to:
Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy
P. O. Box 52027
Durham, NC 27717-2027
You might also be interested in listening to our interview with Drs. Mitchell Heflin of Duke University School of Medicine and Laura Hanson of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. They discussed the importance of deprescribing to avoid excess medicines, especially for the elderly.