I’m On Too Many Drugs!

A common concern I hear from patients with heart failure (HF) at the pharmacy is that they are on too many medications. Some patients find this very concerning, especially those who were on a minimal number of medicines – or none – and are suddenly prescribed several medicines after a cardiac event. For example, some people have been prescribed 5 new medicines after their first heart attack. This may make someone feel uneasy as the realization that they may have to be on these drugs for life settles in. The following article will outline tips to manage the feeling of being on too many drugs.

Have heart failure and feel like you are on too many medicines?

Know the indication of your medications

An indication is a medical word used to highlight why someone may be taking a drug; that is, the condition the drug was tested to treat. For example, an indication for a statin is to reduce high blood cholesterol levels. If you feel like you are on too many medicines, jot down the indication of each drug. You can ask your pharmacist to help if you are unsure. This will help paint a picture of what your necessary drugs are.

Take note of what was intended to be a short-term medicine

I often see people prescribed medicines that are meant for short-term use but are then continued long-term. For example, you may be admitted to the hospital. People in hospitals are often prescribed sleep aids to help improve the quality of sleep because, well, hospitals can be a noisy and novel environment, making it difficult to fall asleep! But sometimes, that drug is not discontinued when they are discharged. Therefore, someone who has normally no issues falling asleep at home may continue to be prescribed sleep aids after discharge.

Another common one I see is heartburn medicines. Sometimes, people can go through a period of short-term heartburn, perhaps triggered by an ulcer, anxiety, or certain foods. They may not be discontinued from this drug after the event has resolved, meaning some find themselves on these drugs for years and do not know why.

Do not compare yourself to past self or another person

At times, despite tailoring your medicines and ensuring each one is in fact indicated for you, you may continue to be unsatisfied with the number of medicines you are on. That is a completely justified feeling. I’ve heard patients make remarks comparing the number of medicines they have been on over the years. Or they compare it with someone else they know. A gentle reminder that the number of medicines you are on is not reflective of your health status. For example, someone could be on no medicines at all but have more health issues.

Use other parameters to measure your health

It is understandable to feel like your health is slipping if the number of medicines you are taking is increasing. However, for most people, the number of medicines you are on is not predictive of health status. Rather, focus on parameters of more value, such as how you feel, your cholesterol levels, etc.

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