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Top medic highlights the risk of ‘polypharmacy’

A survey reviewed by Dr. Stephanie Higashi, is the chief executive of the integrated healthcare practice Health AtLast found that, in the U.S., 22 percent of U.S. citizens used 3+ Rx drugs in a 30 day period and 10 percent used 5+ Rx drugs over a thirty day period, Rx drugs are ‘restricted drugs’ available only by a prescription. The term tends to be used in the U.S. only; here Rx is a contraction of the Latin word “recipe” (an imperative form of “recipere”) meaning “take”.

One reason why so many prescription only medications are being taken is due to the practice of ‘polypharmacy’. This results from patients who have several ailments receiving treatment from multiple doctors. Where there is no coordination of care, one doctor could be unaware what the other doctor has prescribed. According to Dr. Higashi the risks of this are high, especially among the elderly. The side-effects of taking too many medications include falls, broken bones, dizziness, increased confusion, and frequent accident and emergency department visits are common. One reason for this is due to drug cross-reactions. At best one drug will cancel out another, at worse the combined effect leads to an effect that is harmful for health.

According to Dr. Higashi the practice is an indicator of the U.S. troubled healthcare system. She points out the systemic weakness of a healthcare system that uses pharmaceutical drugs to “treat” symptoms rather than medical inquires that are focused on finding and fixing the root cause of an ailment. One reason for this, the medic points out, is economics with a healthcare system affecting the gross margins and reimbursement rates of pharmacists, which can lead to a tendency, in some cases, to make up the shortfall by prescribing more medications.

In communication with Digital Journal, Dr. Higashi said: “It’s now the accepted norm – we’ve been warned for years about the dangers of polypharmacy and yet it continues to rise in all age groups.”

As a solution, Dr. Higashi proposes a new healthcare franchise model with a multiple-disciplinary approach. Here Health Atlast has recently opened a practice in Inverness, Florida, U.S., which offers a complete solution for patients by adopting a multidisciplinary approach to diagnosis and care.

In other words, according to Dr. Higashi “healthcare providers need to band together to help – and rise above the healthcare suppression – patients need us.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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