Dangerous Drug Interactions on the Rise

A recent study that was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA, revealed that as many as one in every six seniors in the United States currently uses a potentially dangerous combination of over the counter medications, prescription drugs, and dietary supplements. This number represents a two-fold increase in those using potentially dangerous drug combinations over a five-year time period.

In a recent article published by CBS News, Dima Mazen Qato, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, stated that “This is a major public health problem.” Qato went on to explain that most of the dangerous interactions highlighted in this study involve the mixing of prescription medications with certain non-prescription medications that are increasingly being taken by older individuals. She went on to say that while it’s difficult to say exactly how many older individuals are dying each year because of these dangerous drug interactions, the problem seems to be on the rise.

The study in question looked at the drug- and supplement-taking habits of more than 2,000 adults in the United States between the ages of 62 and 85. Individuals were interviewed in 2005-2006 and again in 2010-2011 to get an idea of changing trends within this age group. Through these interviews, researchers discovered that the number of seniors who were taking at LEAST five different prescription drugs increased from 30.6% to 35.8% in this timeframe.

While it is possible for drug interactions to occur among prescription medications, in most instances, a doctor or pharmacist will look for such potential interactions and keep from prescribing potentially conflicting medication. The problem, instead, comes when patients mix prescription drugs with over the counter medications or dietary supplements.

The recent JAMA study found that the use of dietary supplements among seniors has increased notably, from 52% to 64% over the course of the study. There was also a 50% jump in the number of seniors who reported using multiple supplements at the same time.

The study also identified 15 of the most common potentially dangerous medication interactions, and determined that the numbers of those using at least one of these drug combinations rose from 8% in 2005 to almost 15% in 2011.

To help prevent potentially dangerous drug interactions from occurring, the researchers in this study recommend that healthcare providers educate their patients on some of the most common drug interactions, prescription or otherwise, that could take place with the medications they prescribe in order to help patients from making potentially dangerous mistakes unknowingly.

Additionally, if you believe that your loved one is at risk of suffering dangerous or even potentially deadly side effects due to mixing medications, or because of other drug-related mistakes, you may want to consider the benefits of an assisted living community. Individuals living in these communities are able to maintain incredible levels of independence and autonomy, but you can rest assured that their daily needs, such as the dispensing of medications, is supervised and controlled by experienced personnel.

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