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Number of Seniors Mixing Medications, Supplements Rising

Many do not tell their doctors, putting them at risk for dangerous drug interactions

TUESDAY, March 22, 2016 (HealthDay News) — More seniors than ever are taking supplements alongside their medications, a practice that puts them at risk for dangerous drug interactions, according to research published online March 21 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Dima Qato, Pharm.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacy systems at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and colleagues first interviewed 2,351 older adults (age 62 to 85) about their medication/supplement use in 2005, and then they surveyed another 2,206 seniors in 2011.

The investigators found that the number of patients taking at least five prescription drugs rose from 30.6 to 35.8 percent during the study period. In addition, the number of seniors taking five or more medications or supplements increased from 53.4 to 67.1 percent. Over the same period, the use of over-the-counter medications dropped from 44.4 to 37.9 percent, while the use of dietary supplements rose from 51.8 to 63.7 percent. The most common supplements used were multivitamins or mineral supplements and calcium.

In a second study in the same journal, Judy Jou, from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and Pamela Jo Johnson, M.P.H., Ph.D., from the Center for Spirituality & Healing at the University of Minnesota, analyzed survey data for 7,493 adults. Of these, 42.3 percent did not tell their doctor about the supplements they were taking or alternative treatments they were trying.

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