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What's In Your (Parents') Medicine Cabinet?: Thoughts on current medical literature & news as it pertains to optimizing our health. November 27, 2011
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Alvin B. Lin, MD, PLLC About the Author
Alvin B. Lin, MD, PLLC

Provided by My 2 Cents

Medications are a double-edged sword.  Used properly in the right dose for the right purpose, they can decrease pain and all-cause mortality.  Used improperly in the wrong dose or for an "inappropriate" purpose, they can cause harm.  Ideally, we would take better care of ourselves than we currently do such that we no longer require oral hypoglycemic, anti-hypertensive, and lipid lowering agents.  Unfortunately, most of us choose the easier path, which is to say, we pop pills. 

On the other hand, there are many situations in which medications play a key role, no matter our lifestyle.  For instance, antibiotics are appropriate for strep throat (when it's truly due to streptococcus and not a virus) and urinary tract infections (not just asymptomatic bacteriuria in a non-pregnant patient).
However, what's "appropriate" to one person (patient, physician or both) might not be considered "appropriate" to someone else.  For instance, beta blockers are standard of care in those with heart disease.  However, they are also anathema to those with asthma.  But what about patients who have both conditions?  Family physicians regularly see and help these complicated but real patients decide which disease process gets higher priority when it comes to conflicting medications.

Complicating this issue is that of polypharmacy, rightly/wrongly prescribed in those with multiple comorbidities.  8 years ago, the Beers list of potentially inappropriate medications (PIM) for use in the elderly was updated from its original expert opinion consensus.  Unfortunately, even in its updated form, the list did not have an evidence-base upon which to support it.  Worse, the list of PIMs did not coincide with studies of adverse drug events (ADE).  But at least it made us think twice about our prescribing habits for the elderly.

Earlier this summer, STOPP (the Screening Tool of Older Persons' potentially inappropriate Prescriptions) was developed based upon 329 ADEs in 600 patients requiring hospitalization.  Ironically, the medications noted in STOPP were not found to be the cause of hospitalization in 5,077 cases identified by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System as published last week in NEJM.  Instead, the authors noted thatwarfarin (33.3%), insulin (13.9%), oral anti-platelet agents (13.3%), and oral hypoglycemic agents(10.7%) accounted for the vast majority of ADE-related hospitalizations.  In fact, medications on the Beers & STOPP list accounted for only 1.2% of hospitalizations.  

So as part of your annual family tune-up, review your parents' medications list with them and make sure they need what they're taking, especially if their list includes any of the four classes mentioned above.

Alvin LinAfter 17 years in Northern California, I headed south where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of California, Riverside, in 1984 and promptly entered the private sector.  A glutton for punishment, I returned for post-baccalaureate studies in Computer Science in 1987 after which I earned my Doctor of Medicine in 1991 from the Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University.  Love called & romance blossomed, so I returned to the San Francisco Bay Area where I completed my Family Medicine residency at Merrithew Memorial Hospital at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine in 1994.
After 3 years wandering around the country as a locum tenens physician and collecting a dozen state licenses along the way, I was feeling rather masochistic once more.  So I applied for subspecialty training, completing my Fellowship in Geriatrics at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University in 1998. I joined the faculty as an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and was appointed Director of the Ambulatory Geriatric Center in Greenville, NC. In 2003, I was recruited by Cenegenics Medical Institute to build it into the ubiquitous presence it is today in your airline inflight magazines. After 7 years as an employed physician, I left to return to my family medicine & geriatric roots by developing a small private practice which this website represents.
I have served as a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Nevada, School of Medicine since 2004 and recently became an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Family Medicine & Geriatrics at the Touro University Nevada College of Medicine.  Along the way, I have written many articles, given many presentations, and made myself available to both patients and colleagues.  I plan to continue more of the same (but without the middle-man!).  For more information, go to and

The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.
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