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Too Many Meds May Be More Problem Than Cure
Date:11/3/2011

for an interaction that could affect the person's health.
  • Drug compliance. Trying to keep track of multiple medications can become too much of a burden, causing people to give up trying to comply with the directions for medication use. "We've found that compliance drops 40 percent when you add a second drug to a patient's regimen, even if they are both once a day," Tomaka said. A lack of compliance to prescription directions can create a serious health risk. "For example, if you use blood pressure medication sporadically, you may set your blood pressure up to become drug resistant," he said. Sporadic use of antibiotics can cause infectious bacteria to develop immunity to medications.
  • Side effects. Every medication a person takes comes with its own risk for side effects. Multiple prescriptions and remedies mean a multiplied risk. And once side effects occur, it can be more difficult to track down the problem. "Sometimes those drugs can mask each others' symptoms," Tomaka said. "If you get an adverse reaction, you don't know which one caused it. Then you have a quandary."
  • But though the trend has been toward more prescriptions, steps are being taken to safeguard patients' health.

    Doctors and pharmacists are working together to create systems by which patients' prescription lists are reviewed, with an eye toward minimizing the medications they take, De Monte said.

    "The whole goal is to try to fine-tune it," she said, "working with the patient to get the best medication with the best effects at the minimal amount."

    Researchers also are working on ways to combine drugs that work well together into a single dose, reducing the number of pills people have to keep track of as well as the risk for drug interactions, Tomaka said.

    "The history of HIV treatment is a good lesson in this," he said. "In the 1990s, most HIV patients took anywhere from six to 24 medication tablets. Sometimes there would be as many
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