DEPRESCRIBING – Is there an epidemic of prescription medicine overtreatment? Start CHOOSING WISELY

It is up to you to ask your physician if you, or a family member, are on too many medications.

“If a patient were to hear something to the effect of ‘let’s get some lab tests,’ I would ask the clinician: How many and why?” …. “Once you order six or seven individual lab tests, the odds of one of them being a false positive already is about 20 percent. Just statistically. So if there are a lot of vials of blood being drawn [ask] ‘Why are we doing this? Why are each of these lab tests needed to help in my care?'” (A)

Too many meds may be caused by defensive medicine, different physicians prescribing without considering what the patient is already taking, and patient failure to remember all prescriptions.

Here’s what you can do.
(1) Start by carrying a list of your prescription with you and show it to every physician every time, as well as others who prescribe like dentists and podiatrists. Include on the list over-the-counter supplements such as allergy medicine, probiotics, and pain relievers.
(2) Next, there are many drug on line interaction checkers to use e.g. WebMD http://www.webmd.com/interaction-checker/default.htm RxList http://www.rxlist.com/drug-interaction-checker.htm Medscape http://reference.medscape.com/drug-interactionchecker
(3) Then go to CHOOSING WISELY http://www.choosingwisely.org which seek to reduce overtreatment, and incorporate these recommendations into practice guidelines, local best practices, and decision support systems.
And, most importantly, tell your primary care practitioner every time you get a new prescription from another doctor or start a new over-the counter product.

NOW read the rest of this post to understand why this is so important!

“The point of prescription drugs is to help us get or feel well. Yet so many Americans take multiple medications that doctors are being encouraged to pause before prescribing and think about “deprescribing” as well.
The idea of dropping unnecessary medications started cropping up in the medical literature a decade ago. In recent years, evidence has mounted about the dangers of taking multiple, perhaps unnecessary, medications.” (B)

Here are some examples:
“When it comes to treating seniors with diabetes, new research suggests that doctors often don’t cut back on medications, even when treatment goals are surpassed.
The study found that when people had potentially dangerous low blood sugar levels, just 27 percent had their medicines decreased. And when blood pressure treatments lowered blood pressure levels too much, just 19 percent saw a reduction in their medications.” (C)

“….efforts to curb excessive antibiotic use toward outpatient and long term care settings. As many as 70% of nursing home residents receive at least one course of antibiotics each year, but up to 75% of those prescriptions are unnecessary, or the wrong drug, dose or duration of treatment is given, according to the CDC. UTIs are a commonly over-diagnosed in seniors, relying on vague symptoms of confusion or bacteria in the urine, leading to antibiotic overuse. “(D)

“The study…, found that in older adults aged 70 or older, taking blood pressure medication was linked to a higher risk of serious falls. (Serious falls as in, falls that caused an ER visit for a fracture, a dislocated joint, or a brain bleed. Serious stuff indeed!)” (E)

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
“Avoiding overdiagnosis and overtreatment also means letting go of some longstanding notions, such as the doctor always knows best; more treatment is better; and that improved technology and early screening will definitely lead to better outcomes..”
“How can we decrease overtreatment? Reducing the use of screening or diagnostic testing that relays more information than requested, increasing the use of surveillance or watchful waiting when small or lower-risk abnormalities are detected, and performing studies to determine the extent of benefit (if any) of treating abnormalities…(F)

(A) Signs of Overtreatment: How to Avoid Unnecessary Care .What to know before saying “yes” to more tests, procedures or prescriptions, by Michael O. Schroeder, http://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2015/08/18/signs-of-overtreatment-how-to-avoid-unnecessary-care
(B) How Many Pills Are Too Many? by Austin Frakt, New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/10/upshot/how-many-pills-are-too-many.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share
(C) Too Many Seniors With Diabetes Are Overtreated by Serena Gordon, http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20151029/too-many-seniors-with-diabetes-are-overtreated-study-suggests#1
(D) CDC warns of overdiagnosis and overtreatment of UTIs in seniors, https://www.univadis.com/viewarticle/cdc-warns-of-overdiagnosis-and-overtreatment-of-utis-in-seniors-316988?s1=news
(E) Blood pressure medications linked to serious falls: What you can do, by Leslie Kernisan, http://betterhealthwhileaging.net/falls-blood-pressure-medications-elderly/
(F) Improving Quality by Doing Less: Overtreatment, by Jessica Herzstein and Mark Ebell, http://www.aafp.org/afp/2015/0301/p289.html

Note: This blog shares general information about understanding and navigating the health care system. For specific medical advice about your own problems, issues and options talk to your personal physician.

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