March 26, 2016

Drug-Drug Interactions Put Elderly at Risk

Barry called me when he read thisarticle in MedPage Today. Why don't people understand the problems polypharmacy cause and especially when they don't talk to their doctors about all the dietary supplements and complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) they are taking? Barry said he talks about all medications he is taking and if the doctor ignores him, he asks the doctor why.

I commented that many people do not because in the past many doctors would tell their patients not to take non-prescription medications and were none too polite about telling them this. Other doctors would belittle them for taking CAM.

Barry agreed and said that these people are putting their lives in jeopardy. He said his friend that ignored the pharmacist and died a few days later was a huge wake-up call for him. I added that many people today are not concerned and feel that the doctors don't care or they would be asking the proper questions. Some people have been told by the homeopathic practitioners that the medications they order are natural and not to talk to medical doctors about them. This is because of medical doctors in the past talked against homeopathic medications and CAM.

I found this very much on point and a warning to our doctors!
Action Points
  • One in six U.S. seniors might be potentially at risk for a major drug-drug interaction, and 25% of adults did not disclose herb or supplement use to primary care physicians.
  • Note that one study found that one-third of the population used complementary and alternative medicine.

Based on the 20 most commonly used medications and the 20 most commonly used supplements, the researchers identified 93 potential drug-drug interactions. And among the 20 common medications, 15 interactions were classified as "potentially of major or life-threatening severity."

Much of the article was about the following and I find this interesting and conflicting at the same time as many doctors do ask for a complete list or bringing in all medications to their appointment. The most common reason for nondisclosure was lack of inquiry by physicians (57%), while 47% of patients said they didn't believe their physician needed to know about their use of CAM.

"Contrary to earlier findings, our results attribute most nondisclosure to physicians not asking about CAM use or to concerns about physician knowledge regarding CAM rather than to physician discouragement or negativity about the use of CAM," Jou and Johnson wrote.

Only 2% of patients said their physician had discouraged them from CAM use in the past, and 3% said they had received discouragement in the present.

"Physicians should consider more actively inquiring about patients' use of CAM, especially for modalities likely to be medically relevant," they wrote.

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