Deadly Drug Combos: Are the Medications and Supplements You Take Putting You At Risk?

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
April 13, 2017
Many seniors are taking a dangrous combination of prescription and over-the-counter medications

It’s probably no surprise that older Americans between the ages of 65 and 79 are prescribed more medications than young adults. But did you know the average senior gets 27 prescriptions filled a year —five times more than people 19 to 25 and nearly three times more than those between 26 and 49?

That’s a lot medication. A new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggests that as many as 15 percent of older Americans are taking a dangerous combination of prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs and supplements.

For years, experts have been warning that Americans are being overprescribed medications.  Researchers in the JAMA study wanted to dig deeper to find out the amount of prescription drugs, OTC medication and dietary supplements adults ages 62 to 85 were taking. Their 2016 study found:

  • Older adults using at least five prescription medications increased from 30.6% in 2005 to 35.8% in 2011.
  • Older adults using dietary supplements rose from 51.8% in 2005 to 63.7% in 2011. Omega-3 fatty acids had the largest usage, rising from 4.7% in 2005 to 18.6% in 2011.
  • The percentage of seniors taking a life-threatening combination of prescription drugs, OTC medications and/or dietary supplement grew from 8 in 2005 to 15 in 2011.
  • Most dangerous combinations involved a cholesterol-lowering drug (statin), a blood thinner (either a prescription antiplatelet or OTC aspirin) and an omega-3 fatty acid supplement to prevent or control cardiovascular disease.

“Many patients think that because supplements, pain relievers and sinus/cold medications are available over the counter, they won’t interfere with prescriptions, so they don’t mention them to their doctor,” explains Dr. Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, MDVIP medical director.

Are you taking too many medications and OTC drugs and supplements? If you haven’t reviewed your medications and supplements recently with your MDVIP-affiliated physician, set up an appointment to discuss them.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of telling your doctor everything you are taking,” Dr. Kaminetsky says.

This can help your MDVIP-affiliated doctor make sure that you are taking the most appropriate combination of medications to help reduce your chances of a serious drug interaction. Need an MDVIP-affiliated doctor? Click here to learn about the benefits of personalized medicine and a private doctor.

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4 Tips to Help You Save on Prescription Medications / Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES / October 11, 2019

About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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