What Is Polypharmacy and Why Is It SO Dangerous?

If you look around the waiting room at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, you’ll see people clutching paper or plastic bags. No, they’re not toting their lunches or recent purchases. These bags contain bottles of prescription drugs, which patients bring in for review with their doctor during their first visit. In many cases, these bags are bulging at the seams. Patients are often taking a dozen or more prescription medications!

So, What IS Polypharmacy?

This underscores what is surely the most egregious practice in modern medicine: polypharmacy, which is defined by Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary as “the act or practice of prescribing too many medicines.” At greatest risk of overmedication are older patients. Although people age 65 and over make up only 14 percent of the population, they receive one-third of all prescriptions. A quarter of individuals in this age group take three or four different prescription drugs every day, and more than 20 percent take five or more.

No studies support the benefits or safety of such indiscriminate drug use—none at all! Most clinical trials look at the effects of a single drug in a highly selective group of patients, and people over age 65 are notoriously underrepresented in these trials. In fact, there is no scientific basis for polypharmacy in any age group. Yet every week we see new patients who come to the clinic taking six, eight, 10, or more drugs.

Perils of Polypharmacy

John is a case in point. This 85-year-old arrived at Whitaker Wellness with a history of hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. He had undergone amputations of his right leg and two toes of his left foot, with further infections in the remaining toes due to diabetic ulcers. John was on a whole slew of pharmaceuticals. In addition to insulin for his diabetes and four drugs to control his blood pressure, he was taking medications for pain, anxiety, GERD, cholesterol, heart disease, and low thyroid. All told, this gentleman was a classic case of polypharmacy. He was taking 12 prescription drugs!

But a fortuitous thing happened the first day John and his wife were at the clinic. His wife lost his medications. Rather than replacing them, we decided simply to add them back in as needed. Well, as a result of getting off this toxic brew—and receiving targeted therapies at the clinic—John’s condition improved dramatically. Off insulin and on a therapeutic nutrition program, his blood sugar tapered downward. Treated with hyperbaric oxygen and sugar dressings the best wound care available, his infected foot slowly improved.

Although John’s physicians in his hometown had vehemently discouraged him from coming to see us, there is no doubt that he returned home in much better shape than when he left. On discharge, he was taking only thyroid replacement, a painkiller, and a nitrate drug for angina—a 75 percent reduction in the number of drugs he was taking upon arrival.

Allison’s Drugs Were Making Her WORSE

Just this month in my newsletter, Health & Healing, I told the story of Allison, a 75-year-old patient who came to see us taking a whopping eight prescription medications and four over-the-counter drugs daily as well as five additional drugs on an as-needed basis. The worst part about Allison’s situation is that several of these drugs were prescribed to treat symptoms that were CAUSED by her other drugs!

We immediately began weaning her off her unnecessary medications and replaced several of her drugs with safe, natural alternatives. We got Allison started on a handful of our noninvasive therapies and she began to feel dramatic improvements very quickly. Long story short, we “cured” this woman not of a particular health condition but from the negative effects of polypharmacy, a problem caused by doctors who relied solely—and dangerously—on excessive and ineffective drug treatments.

Don’t Become a Victim of Polypharmacy

Physicians who overmedicate people like John and allison with unnecessary drugs face no consequences for their irresponsible actions. Meanwhile, patients’ health problems are not improved, but rather exacerbated by their growing piles of pills and medical bills. Polypharmacy has to stop—and it begins with you.

If you feel you may be a victim of polypharmacy, stop and ask questions. Don’t succumb to the pressure of your doctor. Seek a second opinion. If you can’t find a physician in your area who will work with you, call (866) 632-8890 to see how the Whitaker Wellness can help.

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