Consumer Reports recently had a cover story on "Too Many Meds? America's Love Affair with Prescription Medication." It turns out that half of American adults take at least one prescription drug. Actually, the average number of prescriptions is four. That's a lot more pills than people in other countries, and it is more than we Americans used to take. Are we taking too many prescriptions?
Very often, prescriptions start to pile up almost before you notice it. If your sleeping medicine gives you heartburn, you may end up with a prescription to treat that symptom. Sometimes the second medication will then cause symptoms for which the doctor prescribes a different drug. This is one way people end up taking three, four or five different pills.
The problem is that using too many prescriptions increases your risk of side effects. And taking all those different pills means that they may interact with one another. There were more than 1 million emergency department visits due to adverse drug effects in 2014. More than 100,000 people died from those reactions. And, of course, paying for all those pills is also hard on the budget.
That is why Consumer Reports declared October 21st National Check Your Meds Day. They recommend a "brown bag" review of everything you are taking. That means you ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice on whether you are taking anything you might not need. Be sure to ask exactly how to discontinue it, if that is the advice. Some drugs should not be stopped abruptly.
We'll do our best to answer your questions about too many prescriptions. Tune in Saturday, October 21, 2017, from 7 to 8 AM EDT or call 1-888-472-3366. You can also reach us through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Twitter @peoplespharmacy.
Lisa Gill is the deputy content editor of Best Buy Drugs for Consumer Reports. The website is: www.consumerreports.org/cro/health/prescription-drugs/best-buy-drugs/index.htm