We hear a lot about how the opioid crisis is destroying families and communities. But the scope and impact of medication overload is much bigger: in the last two decades the number of older adults taking five or more medications has increased 300 percent.  There’s also been a spike in the number of serious adverse drug events (ADEs).  These alarming facts and others are outlined in a new report from the Lown Institute titled, “Medication Overload: America’s Other Drug Problem.”  Jana talks with the report’s co-authors: Judith Garber, a Health Policy and Communications Fellow at the Lown Institute; and Shannon Brownlee, Senior VP at the Institute and author of the book, “Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer.”  Judith and Shannon talk about the dangers of medication overload, what’s driving the practice, solutions that have been effective in tackling the problem and what you can do to prevent adverse drug events.

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Read the Lown Institute report: Medication Overload: America’s Other Drug Problem
Lown Institute website


Before adding another medication, ask your doctor these questions to avoid unnecessary medications and set a “stop date” for medications that aren’t meant to be taken long-term:    

  • What is this medication for? What disease is it treating?
  • Is there evidence that this drug is effective for patients of my age and with my medical conditions?
    • Out of 100 patients like me, how many are helped and how many are harmed by this medication?
  • How will we know when the medication is working or not working?
  • Can I start on a lower dose and see if that works?
  • How long should I take this medication? When should I stop taking it?
  • Do you know how this medication might interact with other drugs I’m already taking?
  • Are there side effects I should watch out for if I take this medication?