Autoimmune Diseases Web

Dennis Hernet/Senior side: Multiple medications can work against each other

Are we seniors over-medicated?

Now before every physician within earshot of God starts calling me a Hippocratic Heretic, maybe some of this is our fault. Not all of it ... just some of it.

We listen to the medical ads on television advising us to ask our doctors about certain medications we probably don't need, ads meant to instill doubt in our minds.

And the side effects.

Do I really need to suffer diarrhea, nausea, possible liver damage and cramps just for a few personal pleasures?

I bring this up because I'm seeing more and more instances of people on multiple medications.

I'm not saying that just because you're on multiple medications, the doctor is taking advantage of you or your insurance, I'm just wondering if the doctor is evaluating your entire medication regimen?

Maybe sometimes we inadvertently aren't giving the doctor our full story, probably because we are being treated by two or three different physicians simultaneously for a number of unrelated ailments of varied seriousness.

About 20 years ago, a new independent pharmacist offered to do a free program at the senior center. He invited multi-prescription users to put all of their meds in a bag and he would assess if all were really able to do the intended job. He didn't try to place blame. He was amazed at the number of medications that simply counteracted other medications.

In one case, he recommended a person discuss elimination of four of the eight prescriptions with the family physician. Not only did the person save money, but also got healthier faster because some of the medications were fighting each other.

A friend of mine who was on a dozen or so medications, prescribed through three different health care facilities, had a similar evaluation out of town with similar results.

A good pharmacist can be the patient's best friend. Patients should deal with just one pharmacy. Because everything is on one record, an alert pharmacist may be the first to see the red flag: two prescriptions that counteract each other.

A good pharmacist will not only talk to the patient, but also can be the liaison with the prescribing physician.

A patient has the right to question new prescriptions. A good physician will openly answer questions. Don't be afraid to ask:

1. What is this supposed to do?

2. Do I already have another medication that does this?

3. What reactions should I have?

And don't be afraid to ask two more important questions:

1. Is this the generic form?

2. Is there an over-the-counter medication that will do the same thing?

You may laugh at that last question, but I know of a situation where a doctor recommended an over-the-counter medication that cost less than a dollar a day, noting it was just as good as a prescription drug that could cost a couple hundred dollars a month.

Sort of reminds me of the medical joke where the doctor says, "Take two aspirins and call me in the morning."

Sometimes a good night's sleep cures a modest ailment.

I reiterate, because you're on multiple medications doesn't mean the doctor is taking advantage of you or your insurance coverage. And no doctor should be upset if you have good questions regarding your medications.

Never be afraid to take all of your medications with you, occasionally, when you visit your physician. A doctor can best serve you when seeing a complete picture of your medical diet.

Thought for the week: Being kind is more important than being right.-Andy Rooney.

Dennis Hernet is a retired HTR staff writer.