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by Abigail Van Buren

Multiple Medications Can Be Too Much of a Good Thing

DEAR ABBY: Back in 1991, you ran an important letter suggesting that senior citizens "brown-bag" all their medications and have them reviewed by their physician or pharmacist. Please run it again. It is more important today then ever amidst all the confusion concerning medications. I've enclosed a copy as it appeared in the Syracuse Post-Standard in New York. -- CONCERNED LONGTIME READER

DEAR LONGTIME READER: I agree. It deserves to be repeated:

DEAR ABBY: With the increasing concern about the problems of the aging -- confusion, loss of memory, a tendency to fall, incontinence, etc. -- geriatric experts are finding substantial evidence that the elderly take so many prescription drugs that their bodies are becoming vulnerable to the side effects.

Peter Lamy, assistant dean of geriatrics at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, says that drug-induced illness is sometimes written off and attributed to the "aging process," which not only reduces the quality of lives, but can lead to senior citizens being prematurely sent to nursing homes.

According to Dr. Jerry Avon, professor of social medicine at Harvard Medical School: "The efficiency of the kidney and liver can decline with age, hampering their ability to excrete drugs, which in turn can lead to a drug buildup in the body." He also said that a drug dosage that was safe at age 50 can be dangerous at age 70. Many organs of the body, from the heart to the bladder to the brain, can undergo a change in their sensitivity to medication.

Abby, please suggest that older persons, or their caregivers, "brown-bag" all of their prescription and over-the-counter medications, and take them to their physician or pharmacist for analysis of their cumulative effect.

You would be doing your readers a great service. -- MILLIE HAWTHORN, HARRISBURG, PA.

DEAR MS. HAWTHORN: Thank you for some valuable suggestions that could improve the quality of life -- and possibly extend it. Dr. Robert N. Butler, renowned gerontologist and chairman of the department of geriatrics at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, has suggested that older persons fill all of their prescriptions at one pharmacy, so there will be a complete record of their medications.

DEAR ABBY: I work in a shelter for the homeless. People who come here need many things. Sometimes they own little more than the clothes on their backs.

We rely on people who are more fortunate to donate these items. While we appreciate all donations, some of the things we receive are in such bad shape they cannot be used. I ask only that people who give things to charities think about what they give. Quantity is not as important as quality.

A neat, fresh-looking outfit can boost the confidence of a child who is going off to a new school after facing a family trauma. No one wants to rummage through a pile of ragged clothes trying to find something presentable to wear. The poor cannot use old, stained clothes that need repairs. They often lack the means to remove spots or make the repairs.

Used items that are in good condition can make a big difference to those who have little and need so much. Abby, please encourage your readers to give the things that they would be happy to receive were their situations reversed. -- GAILYN RYAN, ST. PAUL, MINN.

DEAR GAILYN: Your suggestions are sensible and compassionate. Attractive, usable items in good repair would certainly boost the morale of those who suffer the trauma of poverty. Items of clothing that don't pass muster should be recycled in another manner.

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