Polypharmacy

Written by Tara Peris
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Polypharmacy, or illness that stems from taking multiple conflicting medications at once, is a growing problem in the U.S. As Americans look toward pharmaceutical remedies with increasing frequency, it is not uncommon to find that one or more medications are incompatible. The only way to avoid harmful drug interactions and unpleasant side effects is to educate yourself via Internet and reference books before beginning any new course of medication.

In medical parlance, polypharmacy is a form of iatrogenic illness. The term "iatrogenic illness" is used to describe medical complications or illnesses that emerge secondary to one's primary condition. Polypharmacy occurs when one takes multiple medications that either compete with each other directly or have deleterious interactions. For individuals taking several drugs simultaneously, this is a surprisingly common occurrence, with prevalence rates estimated by some doctors at between 10-15 percent.

Preventing Polypharmacy
What can you do to prevent polypharmacy? First, you can avoid doctors who have little knowledge of your medical history. To the extent possible, it is always best to coordinate medication management through a primary care physician with whom you maintain a long term relationship. Avoid anyone looking to just write you a quick prescription.

Second, and just as important, you can learn to research your medicines on your own. There are a number of excellent Internet resources for this purpose. You can find services that will review your medical history and medications and give you recommendations without trying to sell you more prescription drugs.


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