There is another drug problem quietly developing:  The elderly are popping too many prescription pills. The phenomenon is called polypharmacy, multiple studies trace its dramatic rise..  One study of elderly patients found that 44% of them were taking at least one un-necessary drug. 

This problem is magnified by several factors, including many physicians’ traditional reluctance to overturn another doctor’s orders.  As a result patients often continue taking medications longer than necessary, compounding the potential for side effects and interactions  with other drugs. Also, it increases costs for individuals and the health-care system. 

The rise is due in part to the increased use of two classes of drugs: cardioprotectors and psychiatric.  Doctors often prescribe cardioprotective medication , such as statins, to older patients to reduce cardiovascular complications. They do this despite the drug side effects and ample evidence that lifestyle changes are a more effective route to reducing the risk of heart disease.  Doctors frequently recommend antipsychotics, which are used to manage schizophrenia, to ally agitation and confusion.  But they come with dangerous side effects to which seniors are more vulnerable. 

A report in Kaiser Health News by Sandra Boodman reports the solution to polypharmacy epidemic depends on doctors changing the way they practice. According to Ranit Mishori, MD, professor of family medicine at Georgetown University.  “physicians are taught to prescribe drugs.and not taught how to take people off meds.”

If you have questions regarding your meds discuss it with your doctor.