One of Donald Trump’s campaign promises was: “I will formulate a rule which says that for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated.” No matter what you personally feel about the new president this idea makes a lot of sense. Many would be happy with just “no new rules, period!” But the 2 for 1 rule (a twofer) can easily be transmitted to multiple other areas of consideration, especially in pharmaceutical realm regarding prescribing of endless medications without making the critical decision to eliminate any.
Problems with side effects and medication reactions plague the elderly and/or chronically ill patient who carry or store suitcase full bins of pharmaceuticals. Compounding this, when more than one doctor is involved, they rarely decide in concert what to use, and multiple treatments from a stack of practitioners often lead to serious consequences.
The article Adverse drug reactions in the elderly author quotes, “Medications probably are the single most important health care technology in preventing illness, disability, and death in the geriatric population. Age-related changes in drug disposition and pharmacodynamics responses have significant clinical implications; increased use of a number of medications raises the risk that medicine-related problems may occur. “
The number of patients suffering from polypharmacy, significant adverse reactions, and admissions to the hospital is significant and radically increases with age. Many are dose related which alter blood levels of potentially beneficial medication; these can then become life threatening. A good example is blood thinners whose pharmacology can be affected by multiple contemporaneous common medications like antibiotics or ulcer medications.
In a prior blog, a semi-tongue-in-cheek approach was suggested: if the medication bag was too complicated to list easily then the bag should be weighed, discarded and start new treatment plans from scratch. It is not a bad idea. Why weight it though? Some kind of list should be made before tossing that considers what symptom or problem the pharmaceutical is supposed to address. Then after tossing the bag, one can see if each problem still exists, and if a therapeutic avenue has been taken with the new medications.
In conclusion: many seriously ill patients need multiple medications to survive but after too many, a situation of diminishing returns sets in, and side effects often become more serious than the original problem. Maybe, after 5-6 medications are prescribed for chronic complaints, a serious analysis of the need for “all” of these treatments needs to be done. Taking unnecessary medications can be dangerous, create new clinical problems, and dramatically increase the expense of care. Adopting a policy similar to the regulation policy suggested in the beginning may be a good start. In fact, any individual on more than 5 medications deserves a review on a regular basis, with the intent of eliminating any that are either ineffective, dangerous, or in excess.
XpressTechnologies Electronic Health Records with its database can hopefully aid the practitioner in recognizing adverse drug reactions early and correct the situation.