As we age, we tend to have more chronic conditions. As a result more medications are prescribed. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see elderly patients bringing in a paper bag, filled with medications from several doctors.
Do these patients really need all those pills? Probably not, as often different versions of the same type of drug are prescribed by either different physicians or at times even the same doctor. Medications are not benign and when you are taking a bag full, side effects and drug interactions can be dangerous, even deadly.
Furthermore, after a certain age some medications aren’t really as important. For example. does an 80 year old individual with high cholesterol really need statin drugs such as Lipitor? If he or she has never had a heart attack, it is unlikely that by simply stopping this medication a heart attack will happen. In fact, it might be more likely to experience some major side effect such as muscle breakdown, cataracts or elevated blood sugar than to reap the benefit of the drug.
Another example are blood thinners such as Coumadin. These drugs do prevent strokes in patients with an irregular heart beat such as atrial fibrillation, but the flip side is that they cause more bleeding. If an elderly patient has frequent falls, he or she is at risk for a serious bleed inside the brain from hitting their head. Often times, this risk is greater than the risk for stroke, so the drug in those cases should be withheld.
Each and every medication should be regularly checked by your doctor to ensure that in fact you should be still taking it. Also, drug drug interactions should be carefully reviewed by your doctor, who may decide either discontinue the drug or switch to another one. Finally, by knowing the side effects, you can make an informed decision whether it is even worth continuing on that particular medication.
Remember, as far as medications go, more is not necessarily better.