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Too Many Different Medications Cause Fractures: Study

If you’re taking multiple drugs in a day for various health problems, you may want to take note of a new study that links taking multiple drugs to an increased risk for bone fractures. According to Starts at 60, researchers found that elderly people taking high-risk drugs for sleeping, pain or incontinence not only are twice as likely to fall and break bones, but are also more likely to die within a year of their injury. Specifically, 90 percent of fractures are due to falls and up to 30 percent of older people die in the year following the fall.

They call it polypharmacy: What this means is that you’re taking several different drugs simultaneously, sometimes to treat a single ailment, but often to treat multiple ailments with multiple drugs. And, whether you’re on the drugs mentioned in the featured article or not, it’s still a fact that the average U.S. adult is on four drugs at a time.

What’s worse is that many are on even more than four — according to statistics from the Kaiser Health Foundation eight years ago, an “average” 65-year-old in 2010 filled more than 31 prescriptions in a year! If you wonder how this could be, it’s because, ironically, one significant problem with polypharmacy is that it leads to more prescriptions, many of which are intended to fight the side effects of the other drugs.

This, of course, can lead to medication errors as well as issues like falls and broken bones. So, if you’re someone who is taking multiple drugs, make it a point to ask your doctor if all of them are absolutely necessary. If one drug is prescribed to counteract a different drug’s side effects, ask if there is a possibility of stopping the drug that’s causing the problem — and thereby you may be able to stop taking two drugs rather than just one.

Also, be sure to regularly check with your pharmacist as well as your doctor to make sure that all of the medications you’re taking, including antibiotics, antidepressants and blood pressure drugs, are safe to use together. Not surprisingly, if you’re seeing more than one doctor, they may not even be aware to check for contraindications, as each doctor will focus on whatever drug they’re personally prescribing.

The best thing is to make lifestyle changes, including exercise and a healthy diet, to help yourself get and stay well, so the question of taking these drugs will be moot. To that end, even though doctors usually don’t take a drug away once you’re on it, doing so is often part of the solution to feeling better. In fact, one review found that in many cases medications could be successfully withdrawn with little to no harm to the patient; some trials also demonstrated benefits such as reduced fall risk.

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