I don’t’ know about you, but no one bothered to tell me that getting older was going to be so darn tough.
Hair thinning where you want it thick and sprouting up where you’d rather it not be. A growing belly that seems determined to make you buy a new wardrobe every couple of years. And climbing out of bed with joints so stiff that you feel like the Tin Man caught in a rainstorm.
I don’t remember signing up for this!
And then there’s the climbing risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes and more. In fact, it’s estimated that 3 out of 4 seniors are dealing with several chronic health issues.
That typically translates into a medicine cabinet overflowing with prescription drugs and the side effects to go with them. But it turns out those standard side effects aren’t all we should be worrying about. A study published in the journal PLOS One revealed another “side effect” of that drug mix, and this one could turn out to be deadly!
The prescription med mistake that kills
According to researchers a shocking 23 percent of older Americans are being given prescriptions drugs that are in direct conflict with each other. In fact it’s so common they even have a fancy name for it, “therapeutic competition.” (Although I have no idea what’s “therapeutic” about this situation!)
But what it really means, of course, is that your meds could be making your condition worse instead of better. For example, let’s say you’re being treated for COPD. But then you develop a heart condition and your doctor prescribes a beta blocker to lower your high blood pressure.
It may seem like the right thing to do, but when you find out a potential side effect of beta blockers is airway resistance, the problem becomes clear. Because when you’re suffering with COPD, obviously the last thing you want to have happen is to have your respiration compromised even more than it already is.
But wait, it gets worse. In only 16 percent of competing prescription cases does someone catch the issue and make the changes needed to fix the dangerous, or even deadly, issue.
The rest of the folks are left blowing in the wind dealing with the fallout of those drug interactions with no idea what’s causing their condition to get worse. And those are just the lucky ones that live to tell the tale.
1 in 5 seniors prescribed conflicting prescription drugs
An astounding one fifth or American seniors are handed prescriptions for conflicting medications according to the study published in PLOS One. These aren’t for rare or exotic conditions either, they’re for common health conditions that every doc should be well schooled in including…
- heart disease,
- heart failure,
- and high cholesterol.
Which means that the chance of you, or someone you care about, becoming a victim of this negligence is frighteningly high.
A common sense solution to a common problem
But I have a solution I’d like to propose to doctors, and it’s called common sense. Make sure you know your patient’s medical history and if you’re unsure about drug conflicts and interactions for goodness sake do some research before you kill someone!
If your COPD patient develops heart disease try prescribing a beta blocker that doesn’t have respiratory side effects. Or even better, consider a non-drug intervention such as magnesium for improving lung function and vitamin D to reduce blood pressure.
But let’s not hold our breath while we wait for common sense to kick in here. Make sure your own doctor knows your complete medical history including what drugs AND supplements you’re taking before he prescribes any meds or treatments.
And if you get the impression your doctor isn’t interested, or he rushes you out of his office, it’s time to go doctor shopping. Look for a holistic or integrative doc who will work with you to reduce the amount of meds you’re on and who will target the underlying causes of your illnesses and not practice single symptom management.
Dr. Allan Spreen
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