Nevertheless, older people don’t take just prescription drugs. An article published in JAMA Internal Medicine, using a longitudinal national survey of people 62 to 85, may have revealed the fuller picture.
More than a third were taking at least five prescription medications, and almost two-thirds were using dietary supplements, including herbs and vitamins. Nearly 40 percent took over-the-counter drugs.
Not all are imperiled by polypharmacy, of course. But, some of those products, even those that sound natural and are available at health food stores, interact with others and can cause dangerous side effects.
How often does that happen? The researchers, analyzing the drugs and supplements taken, calculated that more than 8 percent of older adults in 2005 and 2006 were at risk for a major drug interaction. Five years later, the proportion exceeded 15 percent.