The Cost of Overmedication

Pharmacy costs keep going up. If you are one of the millions of people taking prescription medication regularly, you know this well. In fact, a study by The National Health Expenditure Accounts Team found that in 2016 a staggering amount near $329 billion was spent on prescription drugs in the U.S. alone.  That number is growing year after year. There are many reasons why this amount is so high, but one simple reason seems to glare at us above the others –  overmedication.


The Epidemic of Overmedication

It is a known fact that the elderly are especially at risk of overmedication . Many are taking 5 or more prescription medications daily, leaving many to deciding between buying medication and food for the month. One study reports that 15% of women over 60 are taking an outrageous ten or more prescription drugs.


Prescription medication has become more prevalent for conditions untreated several decades ago. Borderline high blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels are just a few of the conditions that are regularly treated with prescriptions. These pre-disease diagnoses, as they are now called, were simply “watched”  10 years ago. While the goal is to keep a person living a full life longer, it can lead to a conundrum. Is it better to live longer and but have a lower quality of life due to significant financial struggles? Or is it better to live a slightly shorter life and have financial stability?

Compounding this problem is a phenomenon now referred to as the drug carousel.  This practice of prescribing one medication, which causes a side effect for which another medication is prescribed, and so on, is very real. This is especially true if a patient sees several different healthcare providers. Having a clinical pharmacist or someone who has access to all your records and medications, and who can see the whole picture is a great safeguard against these situations. They can work with your healthcare team to ensure that you are taking only medications you truly need or find a combination therapy that addresses all your concerns, rather than riding the up and down of the drug carousel.


The Cost of Overmedication

The cost of overmedication is not only financial but there is the potential for more side effects that could lead to other health problems. This is compounded by additional financial issues if patients are not able to afford the medications they are prescribed in the drug carousel. With medication costs on the rise, drug carousels becoming the new standard of care for some many Americans. The lack of time or expertise to properly oversee the healthcare of ourselves or our loved ones, the true cost of overmedication is often not measured in dollars and cents. Instead it is measured by the loss in quality of life, ongoing stress, financial stability and the loss of impact that those lives who are influenced would have had on our society if these issues had not been a factor. For so many today, this situation continues to worsen without a clear remedy in sight. 


Curus helps its members mitigate some of these losses with an overview of complex cases and a clinical pharmacist review of all of the medications being taken. If there is a more cost effective solution or one that involves less daily medications, we can suggest that and give pointers on how to approach your healthcare providers about the situation.