Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Medically Complex Patients

There was a great article today in the New York Times, http://tinyurl.com/cttxvp. The article talks about some of the issues involved in treating patients with multiple medical conditions, many of whom are age 65 or older.

One of the basic issues, which I had not really thought of before, is that almost no research has been done on medications. Lots of research is done on, say, diabetes medications, when diabetes is the only medical condition being treated. There is little to know research on diabetes medications when they are taken along with medications for heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

What we know is that the more medications a patient takes, the greater the possibility of serious side effects, and the higher the risk of serious drug interactions. The way our health delivery system is fragmented, there are many patients who have a cardiologist prescribing one set of drugs, an internist prescribing other drugs, and then maybe an endocrinologist or a gastroenterologist also prescribing drugs. This often means that no one doctor is looking at the patient as a whole. This is further complicated by the fact that so few doctors are trained in geriatric issues.

The article suggests that at this point, patients are pretty much on their own, and must take responsibility themselves to stay informed about their medications and be proactive when talking to their doctors.

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