PORTLAND, Ore. About three out of four older Americans have multiple chronic health conditions, and more than 20 percent of them are being treated with drugs that work at odds with each other the medication being used for one condition can actually make the other condition worse.
This approach of treating conditions "one at a time" even if the treatments might conflict with one another is common in medicine, experts say, in part because little information exists to guide practitioners in how to consider this problem, weigh alternatives and identify different options.
One of the first studies to examine the prevalence of this issue, however, found that 22.6 percent of study participants received at least one medication that could worsen a coexisting condition. The work was done by researchers in Connecticut and Oregon, and published in PLOS ONE.
In cases where this "therapeutic competition" exists, the study found that it changed drug treatments in only 16 percent of the cases. The rest of the time, the competing drugs were still prescribed.
"Many physicians are aware of these concerns but there isn't much information available on what to do about it," said David Lee, an assistant professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy.
"Drugs tend to focus on one disease at a time, and most physicians treat patients the same way," Lee said. "As a result, right now we're probably treating too many conditions with too many medications. There may be times it's best to just focus on the most serious health problem, rather than use a drug to treat a different condition that could make the more serious health problem even worse."
More research in this field and more awareness of the scope of the problem are needed, the scientists said. It may be possible to make better value judgments about which health issue is of most concern, whether all the conditions should be
|Contact: David Lee|
Oregon State University