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    Five ways to combat growing polypharmacy among children


    The risk of polypharmacy in children is high, and is a sign that modern healthcare is failing, according to one expert.

    Stephani Higashi, DC, chief executive of the integrated healthcare practice HEALTH ATLAST, believes that a multiple-disciplinary approach is key.


    “If we improve our approach to healthcare on an integrated approach the future will hold great things—healthy, happy productive youth leading the future,” Higashi says.

    Polypharmacy—which results from patients receiving treatment from multiple doctors, with no coordination of care—is especially dangerous among children because there’s no research to determine the long-term effects prescription medications will have on their bodies, according to Higashi.

    “A multiple-disciplinary approach is the necessary paradigm shift,” she says. “The protection is for the patient, but it extends to protect the physicians, specialty providers and pharmacists.”

    Higashi reviewed the literature and found that nearly 25% of all children take at least one prescription medication each month, according to a recent CDC study, including opioids, antidepressants and other psychotropic medications.

    In addition to increased rates of opioid abuse among America’s youth, there has been a five-fold increase in the number of children prescribed psychostimulant medications, along with a six-fold increase in the number of antipsychotic medications prescribed, according to a recent National Institute of Mental Health blog.

    “Managed care executives are some of the most powerful and influential people regarding care, covered care, adjudication of care and determining guidelines for care,” Higashi says. “They literally have the control to determine much of healthcare delivery and the future of our healthcare of our communities. It means we would love for them to have great interest in what is needed to help improve our healthcare and the guidelines of what should or should not be covered and what tests should or should not be done prior to medicating children.”

    According to Higashi, most Americans going to a physician expect to receive a prescription when they are seen and are often not satisfied or feel they have been helped if they do not receive the prescription.

    “In addition, physicians do not have time and it is easier to simply write a prescription to treat the symptoms,” she says. “Prescriptions also rise due to the increased labeling of symptoms into disease categories which then create categories of drugs to prescribe. Thus the prescription of change your diet, exercise, improve your posture, and get more sleep, and spend more time outdoors with your family and friends, is not actually ever prescribed. Sometimes the best prescription is no prescription.

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