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Have we become too dependent on medications?

More than 3 billion prescriptions were written in the U.S. last year, and nearly half of us have used at least one prescription medication in the last month.

Express Scripts, a company that manages pharmacy benefits, released data that shows that half a million Americans had prescription costs of more than $50,000 last year. Many were taking at least 10 different medications and they were often prescribed by multiple physicians. 

Popping pills has become the norm. How did we get here?

There’s no question that many medications represent advancements in care and can be lifesaving. But we have to ask ourselves: Do we really need this many pills?

To determine if you really need all the medications your doctor is prescribing, be ready to ask questions. Whether you’re talking to your doctor or your pharmacist, these are the five things you need to know:

  1. What is this medication for?
  2. How long will I need to use it?
  3. Is there anything I can do to reduce my need for it?
  4. What are the side effects?
  5. Are there any concerns about using this medication in combination with the other medications/supplements I am taking?

Question 3 is especially important if you want to minimize the number of medications you take. Your doctor should be able to point you to non-medication approaches for many of your health issues, especially if they are lifestyle related. Depending on your condition, you might still need a drug for optimal treatment, but if you can use a lower dose you can reduce your risk of side effects.

Number 5 is also critical, especially if you are on more than 3-4 medications. A medication list can grow and grow when drugs are used to treat side effects of other agents. Your pharmacist is a good resource for this.

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