Tag Archives: drug interactions

More pills mean more risk

About Scott Hensley

Scott Hensley runs NPR's online health channel, Shots. Previously he was the founding editor of The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog and covered the drug industry and the Human Genome Project for the Journal. Hensley serves on AHCJ's board of directors. You can follow him at @ScottHensley.

Sometimes it takes a celebrity to draw attention to something we should have noticed long ago. Though the exact cause of pop icon Michael Jackson’s death remains undetermined, reports of his heavy use of prescription medicines remain at the center of attention.prescription-drugs

Cardiologist and blogger Westby Fisher draws a lesson from the Jackson case and his own experience closer to home. “We have become a pill culture,” he writes, gobbling medicines “with barely a thought about their side effects.” That’s a mistake.

Fisher got to thinking about the commonplace but risky combinations of drugs many Americans consume after watching his mother-in-law casually count out a mountain of daily meds then swallow them “like a pelican downing an oversized fish.”

Doctors can be as “pill-obsessed” as patients, he writes, and too often turn to a prescription as a “quick fix” without considering the alternatives – or consequences. At the hospital where Fisher works, he’s noticed more and more side effects – especially abnormal heart rhythms – in patients taking multiple drugs.

Fisher urges patients to disclose all the medicines they’re taking to their doctors. Physicians, for their part, should be more careful when prescribing drugs to patients already on oodles of them.