In a class I’m taking called Special Populations, a topic we covered was polypharmacy. Polypharmacy refers to the effects of taking multiple (5 or more) medications concurrently to manage several health problems. This is most common in the elderly population, and it poses several challenges like unknown interactions, lack of evidence, and cost. I found this lecture in class helpful because it can be overwhelming where to begin when working with a patient who has several conditions and is taking multiple medications.
Adverse drug reactions/events are linked to preventable problems in the elderly like depression, constipation, falls, immobility, confusion, and hip fractures. Some risk factors for developing an adverse drug event include more than six chronic disease states, and taking over nine medications or over 12 doses of medications daily.
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Sadly, it’s easy to get on a downward spiral with prescriptions, when one prescription is given to treat a condition, and a second is added in to combat side effects of the first medication, and so on and so forth.
In naturopathic medicine, we must be educated and prepared to help people on multiple pharmaceuticals. This includes reviewing all symptoms and medications, investigating side effects, and knowing when it’s appropriate to help patients wean off of medications (in licensed states) or refer to the prescribing doctor to do so (in pre-licensed states). With naturopathic medicine, we can help patients by using botanicals that are safer and have fewer side effects in lieu or in addition to pharmaceuticals. Additionally, we have other tools in our toolbox to work with like nutrition and hydrotherapy to enhance overall well-being.