Too Many Drugs

By David Spero | January 14, 2009 2:36 pm

Older adults in the U.S. use a lot of prescription drugs. We knew that, but the actual numbers are frightening. A study published recently in The Journal of the American Medical Association by Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, of the University of Chicago Medical Center and others reports that more than half of U.S. adults aged 57 to 85 are using five or more prescription or non-prescription drugs.

That’s right. More than half. Five drugs or more. The study goes on to report that many of the drug combinations people are taking are not safe, with at least 175,000 ER visits a year in the U.S. for drug reactions.


Commenting on the blog eldercare resource[1], a pharmacist called “Piller of the Community” (cute, huh?) commented:

“As a geriatric consultant pharmacist, this story is so true. With patients seeing multiple physicians/specialists, we see some drug/drug interactions as well as duplication of therapy.

USE one pharmacy that can track all this and screen for interaction problems. And be sure you know what over the counter and alternative medications are doing to your Rx medication. Many can inactivate and make them less or even more effective.”

I know from researching my book Diabetes: Sugar-coated Crisis[2] that some people with Type 2 diabetes are on far more than five medicines — I talked with one man who was on 20. Please watch out for overmedicating doctors, and try to make sure your doctors are talking to each other.

What has been your experience? Do you find the system trying to overmedicate you? Have you had problems with drug interactions, or is everything going well with your meds? Let us know.

Here are a couple of interesting recently published tidbits.

Eat Less, Have Healthier Gums?
A study published in the journal Nutrition reported that male rhesus monkeys who ate less food had less gum disease than those who ate more. This might actually mean something for humans, because the chronic inflammation of gum disease can cause many health problems[3], including high blood glucose[4].

Of course, it’s easy to say “eat less” to a monkey in a cage. It’s harder out here in Sugarworld, but study coauthor Mark Reynolds, DDS, PhD, notes that “dietary restriction has been shown to reduce the risk for chronic disease and promote longevity[5] in multiple animal models.”

Stevia Moves Ahead
The search for healthy noncaloric sweeteners may be over as the South American herb stevia gains wider availability in the U.S. market. Coke is planning two new juice drinks in its Odwalla line[6] that use stevia, while Pepsi plans to market its SoBe Lifewater line with stevia[7] as soon as it is approved by the FDA.

The FDA has allowed stevia to be sold as a “dietary supplement,” but not as a “sweetener.” It is unclear what the government’s concerns are. Asian studies in animals found no risks of cancer and no problems with growth and development[8] for three generations in rats and hamsters. In fact, female rats fed high doses of stevia’s active ingredient had lower rates of cancer than the control group. It seems safer than anything else out there. The conspiracy observer in me thinks that perhaps FDA is worried that their pharma friends who make aspartame[9] will lose money.

Have you tried stevia as a sweetener? I was sent a free bottle by a distributor, and I like the way it tastes. But then, free food always tastes better to me…

  1. eldercare resource:
  2. Diabetes: Sugar-coated Crisis:
  3. many health problems:
  4. high blood glucose:
  5. promote longevity:
  6. new juice drinks in its Odwalla line:
  7. SoBe Lifewater line with stevia:
  8. no risks of cancer and no problems with growth and development:
  9. aspartame:

Source URL:

David Spero: David Spero has been a nurse for 40 years and has lived with multiple sclerosis for 30 years. He is the author of four books: The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness (Hunter House 2002), Diabetes: Sugar-coated Crisis — Who Gets It, Who Profits, and How to Stop It (New Society 2006, Diabetes Heroes (Jim Healthy 2014), and The Inn by the Healing Path: Stories on the road to wellness (Smashwords 2015.) He writes for Diabetes Self-Management and Pain-Free Living (formerly Arthritis Self-Management) magazines. His website is His blog is

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