A CNN story from last May tells the riveting tale of businesswoman Alesandra Rain, who’s martial and business problems were keeping her awake at night. Her family doctor prescribed sleeping pills, which did the trick.
A few weeks later, however, she began suffering from lung infections and bronchitis. A pulmonologist wrote a script for an antibiotic seemingly solving that problem.
Shortly though, Rain’s heart beat became erratic skipping beats, so she went to a cardiologist who – after some testing – gave her a prescription drug designed to treat arrhythmias. Now taking six different mediations from three medical experts, Rain suffered a seizure and a neurologist put her on anti-seizure meds.
Next her insomnia returned. She went on disability and became depressed, which sent her to a psychiatrist who put her on anti-depressants – Rain was now spending $900 a month on 12 prescription drugs prescribed by five different medical specialists.
Think this tale is a rarity?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, approximately 130 million Americans take one or more prescription drugs every single month. In a study of 3,000 people aged 57 and older, more than 50 percent took five or more combinations of prescription drugs.
The use of pharmaceutical drugs has increased by two-thirds over the past 10 years resulting in 3.5 billion prescriptions filled yearly yielding some $250 billion in drug industry sales.
According to the experts at Consumer Reports On Health, the problem is not so much solitary prescriptions but rather the taking of multiple drugs resulting in drug interactions, which the CDC says results in 700,000 visits to emergency rooms every year. Experts estimate that 125,000 Americans die from drug reactions yearly making pharmaceuticals the fourth-leading cause of death in the nation after heart disease, cancer and strokes.
How do you avoid becoming an American prescription drug statistic?
Health experts suggests a “brown bag” review every 4 to 6 months where you toss all your prescription drugs, supplements and over-the-counter medications into a bag and take them to your primary care physician. Jerry Gurwitz, M.D. chief of geriatric medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester says a medication review is “one of the single most important things that happens in the context of an office visit.”
Consumer Reports On Health recommends you ask your doctor these six questions.
- Do I really need this drug? Ask you physician if the medication is still necessary, does it duplicate other drugs you are taking and is it proving effective for you.
- What should this drug do for me? You need to understand the goal of your drug treatment.
- Will this drug interact with other medications or supplements I take? Combinations of meds, OTC’s and supplements can render a drug ineffective or multiple its side effects.
- Can I take a lower dose? The rule of thumb with pharmaceuticals should be “start low and go slow.”
- What side effects should I look out for? Experts say every new symptom should be considered a side effect until proven otherwise.
- Are there non-drug alternatives? Sometimes lifestyle changes, weight loss and exercise are the simple answer.
Whatever happened to poor Alesandra Rain?
She went into a drug rehab program for substance abuse and now runs a company called Point of Return dedicated to educating others on the dangers of prescription drug side effects. Oh, Rain discovered that her initial insomnia was due to a vitamin B-12 deficiency.
Cord Prettyman is a certified Master Personal Trainer and owner of Absolute Workout Fitness and Post-Re-hab Studio in Woodland Park. He can be reached at 687-7437 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.