Polypharmacy in the Elderly - Dr. Carolyn Dean MD ND

Polypharmacy in the Elderly

July 30, 2018

There is nothing new in this headline except the number of prescriptions to seniors has increased. “People in their silver years are golden geese to Big Pharma: More than half are on at least 5 prescriptions, some more than 20.”

Thirty years ago I used a cartoon called Drug Free America in my public lectures. There were 7 drawings of people at various life stages and the captions showed the drug trend. The drugs have altered and increased but it’s still true that the 65+ age group takes “everything else”.

  • Age 0-4: Amoxicillin
  • Age 4-12: Ritalin
  • 12-18: Appetite Suppressants
  • 18-24: No-Doz
  • 24-38: Prozac
  • 38-65: Zantac
  • 65+: Everything Else

This article in Natural News commented on a study published in the journal Age and Aging identifying overmedicated seniors in the UK. Simply being a senior is “a risk” for being on too many drugs even though drug side effects and drug interactions can be deadly serious.

Shockingly, patients on 5+ drugs per day grew from 12% (1991-1994) to 49% (2008-2011). Did you get that? An increase from 12% to 49%. It seems unbelievable until you learn that the prescriptions for heart drugs rose by 230%.

You may already know the scenario I talk about. You go into your doctor at a very stressful time and you are diagnosed with high blood pressure – you are put on a diuretic instead of magnesium. You are probably only magnesium deficient. A month later your BP is worse because the diuretic drains more magnesium, so you are put on two more BP drugs. Three months later a blood test reveals high cholesterol and high blood sugar – caused by more magnesium loss. But that’s ignored as a cause and you are given a statin drug and a diabetic drug. No wonder prescriptions for heart drugs increased by 230%!

I always thought the increase in the use of drugs fit into the new model of HMO health care that created 7-minute appointments and giving out scripts was the easiest way to end an appointment. However, the research team lay part of the blame on a program that actually gives doctors financial incentives to prescribe drugs. According to the experts, the initiative rewards physicians if they are able to accomplish goals for certain diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and asthma, as well as epilepsy, diabetes, and obesity.

There is also the push toward so-called Preventive Medicine because doctors are recognizing that they are not very good at stopping people from dying of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease. So they screen people for these diseases so that treatment can begin earlier – ergo more drugs and prescribing them for life!

Another fact coming from the study is that women and older adults use more prescription drugs especially heart drugs. Young and middle-aged adults use more antidepressant and opioids.

In my work I’ve found that many chronic conditions that are diagnosed may be related to nutrient deficiencies. When those nutrient deficiencies are identified and treated, the symptoms resolve. That should be the first step in improving health – not the last desperate step after a person is on 20 drugs and suffering the side effects of Polypharmacy.

Learn about magnesium, and much more, by subscribing to my health tips by email. You can subscribe here: https://drcarolyndean.com/subscribe

Carolyn Dean MD ND

The Doctor of the Future®

RESOURCES: Along the borders and in the links of my web site you can find my books, writings, and my call-in radio show. Email your questions to: questions@drcarolyndeanlive.com.

Want more health info like this?

Subscribe to receive FREE health tips from Dr. Carolyn Dean. We won't spam you or sell your information.