We’re a pill popping nation. A 2013 study found 70% of Americans are taking at least one prescription medication daily, and for more than half, it’s two. Antibiotics, antidepressants and pain killers are the top choices. One in five people are taking five or more medications every day. The numbers pile up, and so do the problems.
Drug interactions are hard to predict because different people respond to medications differently, and sometimes even known adverse interactions slip through the cracks because prescriptions are written by different doctors at different times for different ailments. It all adds up to a nation that may be overmedicating at great cost.
Four of the top 10 drugs in America have increased in cost by more than 100% since 2011. We spent $457 billion on drugs in 2015, about 70% of that for prescription medications. The demographic of most concern to Dr. Jeff Sherer is elderly patients. He’s an associate professor at the University of Houston in the Department of Pharmacy Practice, and says they need a special focus. “Because they tend to be more sensitive to adverse effects from medications,” he tells KTRH News. “They tend to run into more problems with drug interactions.” He suggests patients periodically review all medications they are taking, prescribed and over the counter, with their primary care physician. Older patients, he suggests, can check online with the “Beers Criteria List” for potentially inappropriate medications they may be taking. (It was developed in 1991 by Dr. Mark Beers.) “This can include a lot of older antihistamines, the diphenhydramine-Benadryl type, are especially high on the list and that’s especially important because they are over the counter,” says Dr, Sherer.