A Prescription for Prescriptions

There’s nothing new in yesterday’s New York Times Week in Review account of how much we as a nation are dependent on drugs –the legal ones prescribed and sold over the counter. But as drugs for 11-year-old girls and drugs for older Americans under Medicare Part D are in the headlines, the article is a timely reminder of the danger.

Unlike drugs of addiction, the life-preserving medications are not in themselves bad. But the way doctors prescribe them, the way patients take them and the way a crazy-quilt health system compartmentalizes them makes the everyday miracle drugs a serious cause of illness. The problem is that doctors do not always know what other doctors have prescribed and patients are careless, ignorant or forgetful about what they actually take. The result, too often, is a potentially fatal mixing of drugs that do not work together.

With 82 percent of Americans reporting they use a drug, over-the-counter medication or vitamin supplement each week, this is an epidemic than can easily be prevented by having written in one place – – your wallet and a doctor’s chart – – everything you take.

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