Points to America’s “Other” Drug Problem

The opioid epidemic is not the only drug epidemic in this country. Among senior citizens, polypharmacy, the use of multiple medications prescribed by multiple doctors, is a lesser known one. Research recently published in the Journal of Gerontology says 25 percent of people in the 65 to 69 age range nearly double the amount of medications they take by age 70 to 79.

The cycle starts with one medication. But that prescription can have certain side effects that physicians treat with more medications. Making matters worse, patients see multiple physicians who may not be aware of all the medications his or her patient is taking. The article discusses how physicians are often taught to prescribe medication, but not de-prescribe. Dr. Kathryn McGrath, a Thomas Jefferson University Hospital geriatrician, has published a simple method for de-prescribing in older adults.

A way patients can avoid confusion is to bring their pill bottles to their appointments. Dr. McGrath told, she likes to review all of the medications her patients are taking in the beginning of their appointments. She said “I think having the pill bottles” is much stronger than a medication list.

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