Skip to content

    50+: Live Better, Longer

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    1 in 6 Seniors Combines Meds, Supplements

    Researchers say patients should tell doctors every treatment they're taking

    WebMD News from HealthDay

    By Steven Reinberg

    HealthDay Reporter

    MONDAY, March 21, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- More seniors than ever are taking supplements alongside their medications, a practice that puts them at risk for dangerous drug interactions, researchers report.

    More than 15 percent of older Americans took potentially life-threatening combinations of prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements in 2011, the study showed. That was almost a twofold increase from 2005, when 8.4 percent of seniors did so.

    "Alongside the growing use of multiple medications, there is also a hidden, and increasing, risk of potentially deadly drug interactions in older adults," said lead researcher Dr. Dima Qato. She is an assistant professor of pharmacy systems at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

    Many of these interactions involved heart drugs and supplements, such as omega-3 fish oil supplements, which are more commonly used now than they were five years ago, Qato said.

    To be on the safe side, patients should always tell their doctor and pharmacist about all of the drugs and supplements they are taking, or plan to take, including over-the-counter medications, she said.

    "A medication or supplement may be safe and beneficial when you use it alone, but when you mix it with other medications or supplements, it can be very dangerous," Qato explained.

    The report was published online March 21 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

    Qato's team first interviewed more than 2,300 older adults about their medication/supplement use in 2005, and then they surveyed another 2,200 seniors in 2011. Participants were aged 62 to 85.

    The investigators found that the number of people taking at least five prescription drugs rose from over 30 percent to almost 36 percent during the study period. In addition, the number of seniors taking five or more medications or supplements increased from over 53 percent to slightly over 67 percent.

    Over the same period, the use of over-the-counter medications dropped from slightly over 44 percent to almost 38 percent, while the use of dietary supplements rose from close to 52 percent to almost 64 percent, the researchers found.

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    blueberries
    Eating for a longer, healthier life.
    woman biking
    How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
     
    womans finger tied with string
    Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
    man reviewing building plans
    Do you know how to stay healthy as you age?
     
    fast healthy snack ideas
    Article
    how healthy is your mouth
    Tool
     
    dog on couch
    Tool
    doctor holding syringe
    Slideshow
     
    champagne toast
    Slideshow
    Two women wearing white leotards back to back
    Quiz
     
    Man feeding woman
    Slideshow
    two senior women laughing
    Article