The prices of prescription drugs are a problem that weighs on the minds of many seniors in America. However, according to recent reporting by the New York Times, another thing they should be worrying about is taking too many of them!
According to the report, the rampant over-prescription of medicines to elderly Americans by doctors has become so widespread, that it can now be considered “a clear and present danger” to the health of these senior citizens.
Today, the average American in his mid- to late 60s takes up to 15 prescription drugs a year, according to The Times. This same news story reported that this total doesn’t even count the number of over-the-counter (OTC) products seniors are taking.
Here’s another disturbing over-prescription statistic. Back in 2016, the AARP revealed that 75 percent of the respondents to one of its surveys (all over age 50) said they take at least one prescription medication regularly. In this same survey, more than 80 percent reported taking at least two, while more than 50 percent took four or more. From 1988 to 2010, adults over 65 doubled the number of prescriptions they took from two to four. The proportion of adults taking five or more has tripled over the last 22 years.
Healthcare professionals call this problem “polypharmacy.”
Statistics confirm polypharmacy in the U.S. is most common in the elderly. It affects 40 percent of elderly Americans living in their own homes. Some 21 percent of adults with intellectual disabilities are also exposed to polypharmacy.
Despite repeated warning to doctors to limit this practice, polypharmacy continues to grow because of the country’s aging population.
Concerns about polypharmacy include increased adverse drug reactions, drug interactions, the so-called “prescribing cascade” and more expensive medicines. Rather than helping, all of that over medication often does more harm than good. Polypharmacy is often associated with a decreased quality of life, including decreased mobility and cognition. The problem has also been linked to an increased risk of falls in elderly people. Some medications are known to be associated with the risk of falls, including cardiovascular and psychoactive drugs.
“Contemporary older adults on multiple medications have worse health status compared to those on fewer medications, and appear to be a vulnerable population,” the New York Time expose said.
On the suggestion to help fight the problem is to educate seniors more about drug-free alternatives. Dr. Joseph Mercola, a well-known advocate of “naturopathic” medicine, says, “focus on reducing inflammation and seeking the root causes of health conditions helps lower dependence on drugs that usually come with a significant list of side effects.”
Dr. Mercola also said that before adding one more prescription medicine or OTC drug to a person’s daily regimen, consider seeking the help of a natural health physician who can help get to the root of the problem.