Dennis Hernet/Senior side: Multiple
medications can work against each other
Are we seniors over-medicated?
Now before every physician within earshot
of God starts calling me a Hippocratic
Heretic, maybe some of this is our fault.
Not all of it ... just some of it.
We listen to the medical ads on
television advising us to ask our doctors
about certain medications we probably don't
need, ads meant to instill doubt in our
And the side effects.
Do I really need to suffer diarrhea,
nausea, possible liver damage and cramps
just for a few personal pleasures?
I bring this up because I'm seeing more
and more instances of people on multiple
I'm not saying that just because you're
on multiple medications, the doctor is
taking advantage of you or your insurance,
I'm just wondering if the doctor is
evaluating your entire medication regimen?
Maybe sometimes we inadvertently aren't
giving the doctor our full story, probably
because we are being treated by two or three
different physicians simultaneously for a
number of unrelated ailments of varied
About 20 years ago, a new independent
pharmacist offered to do a free program at
the senior center. He invited
multi-prescription users to put all of their
meds in a bag and he would assess if all
were really able to do the intended job. He
didn't try to place blame. He was amazed at
the number of medications that simply
counteracted other medications.
In one case, he recommended a person
discuss elimination of four of the eight
prescriptions with the family physician. Not
only did the person save money, but also got
healthier faster because some of the
medications were fighting each other.
A friend of mine who was on a dozen or so
medications, prescribed through three
different health care facilities, had a
similar evaluation out of town with similar
A good pharmacist can be the patient's
best friend. Patients should deal with just
one pharmacy. Because everything is on one
record, an alert pharmacist may be the first
to see the red flag: two prescriptions that
counteract each other.
A good pharmacist will not only talk to
the patient, but also can be the liaison
with the prescribing physician.
A patient has the right to question new
prescriptions. A good physician will openly
answer questions. Don't be afraid to ask:
1. What is this supposed to do?
2. Do I already have another medication
that does this?
3. What reactions should I have?
And don't be afraid to ask two more
1. Is this the generic form?
2. Is there an over-the-counter
medication that will do the same thing?
You may laugh at that last question, but
I know of a situation where a doctor
recommended an over-the-counter medication
that cost less than a dollar a day, noting
it was just as good as a prescription drug
that could cost a couple hundred dollars a
Sort of reminds me of the medical joke
where the doctor says, "Take two aspirins
and call me in the morning."
Sometimes a good night's sleep cures a
I reiterate, because you're on multiple
medications doesn't mean the doctor is
taking advantage of you or your insurance
coverage. And no doctor should be upset if
you have good questions regarding your
Never be afraid to take all of your
medications with you, occasionally, when you
visit your physician. A doctor can best
serve you when seeing a complete picture of
your medical diet.
Thought for the week: Being kind is more
important than being right. — Andy Rooney.
Dennis Hernet is a retired HTR staff