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  • Writer's pictureGary Moller

Are you trapped by Polypharmacy?

Updated: Apr 5

(Updated October 2023)

Polypharmacy: Too many drugs!

"Medicines are meant to help, not harm. But sometimes taking too many drugs can be dangerous, especially for older adults. The use of multiple drugs to treat diseases and other health conditions is known as Polypharmacy. This is a growing concern for older adults".


Story at a Glance:

  • Polypharmacy - using multiple drugs to treat diseases, is a growing concern for older adults and young people.

  • The commercialization and centralization of modern medicine have impacted doctors' ability to act independently in the best interest of patients.

  • The absence of the need for medication is a key predictor of a long and healthy life.

  • Medication may be necessary for managing certain conditions, but drugs often suppress symptoms without addressing the root causes of illness.

  • Personalised medicine that holistically treats the body, mind, and soul, along with nutrition and lifestyle strategies, can reduce the need for lifelong medications.

  • The adoption of the US free-market health model in New Zealand has led to increased prescribing of drugs and a decline in overall health.

  • All drugs have side effects, which may not be immediately apparent and can worsen over time.

  • Complex drug interactions and unknown side effects pose challenges for patients on multiple medications.

  • Modern medicine's focus on treating symptoms rather than addressing root causes contributes to its failure in improving health and longevity.

  • Investing in health, maintaining a healthy body, and regularly assessing health status can help prevent diseases and reduce reliance on pharmaceutical drugs.


I'd add that this is also a growing problem for young people. Furthermore, now that I've turned 70 years of age and have longer then 50 years of full-time work in various roles within the health system, and in sport, a multiple-age-group world champion, I'm better qualified to comment about issues relating to health and longevity.

The commercialisation and centralisation of modern medicine have interfered with doctors’ ability to act independently in the best interests of their patients. Long gone is the family doctor of old who'd turn up at your home at two o'clock in the morning with his stethoscope and leather bag and proceed to wipe your child's fevered brow. Today, medicine is a hurried ten-minute appointment ending with a prescription determined by best-practise protocols and what is on the funded (permitted) Pharmac database.have interfered with doctors’ ability to act independently in the best interests of their patients. Long gone is the family doctor of old who'd turn up at your home at two o'clock in the morning with his stethoscope and leather bag and proceed to wipe your child's fevered brow. Today, medicine is a hurried ten-minute appointment ending with a prescription for an approved patent medicine. practise protocols and what is on the funded (permitted) Pharmac database.

A key predictor of who will have a long, healthy and productive life is the absence of the need for medication.

Note carefully that I've said "the absence of the need", so the last thing you should do is stop taking medication if needed for managing a disease. A healthy person doesn't need medication. A person who needs medication can't be entirely healthy. A few drugs, such as antibiotics, cure a condition, but these are the exceptions. Instead, drugs suppress symptoms while not addressing the root causes of illness. Sometimes, due to irreparable damage to an organ system, such as Type II Diabetes, or where the thyroid has been surgically removed or irradiated, medication may be a lifetime requirement. It should be added that even in such instances, there are nutrition and lifestyle strategies that reduce the need for these lifelong medications, thus improving health.

My role in health is to help people stay healthy for their entire lives, thus not needing medication. If a person is on medication, my job is to guide them in their quest for better health and, therefore, need less medication and, hopefully, no need. Getting healthy takes time, sometimes several years, but is always worth the effort of the journey.

I've hesitated about writing this article because I have many friends and associates within medicine, and I don't want them to take offence, interpreting my writing as anti-doctor. To the contrary, I am fiercely pro-doctor but not the kind of doctor who is mindlessly following what is displayed on the list of Pharmac approved and subsidised medicines and inflexible "Best Practice" procedures. We've seen too much mindless medicine dictated upon the doctor from outside the clinic during this "COVID Era". Instead, I support personalised medicine that holistically treats body, mind and soul and what's good for our environment, such as growing fresh, nutrient-dense food without excessive reliance on toxic chemicals.

Modern medicine has saved millions of lives by treating infections and injuries that once killed; however, it is an abject failure when curing lifestyle, nutrition, and ageing diseases. The way forward for a long, healthy, enjoyable, and productive life is through a holistic approach to healthcare and not via a patent medicine or injection. I support my medical friends who practise holistic medicine. Unfortunately, they're attacked from many quarters nowadays and are now a threatened species. In this essay, I explain polypharmacy, which is at the heart of modern medicine's failure to improve health and longevity.

New Zealand: No longer Godzone. Now better known as "DrugsZone".

When I was a child and teenager during the 1950s and 60s, New Zealand was in the top five nations of the Developed World for just about every health measure. We competed with nations like Norway, Sweden, and Japan for the top spots. Today, to our collective shame, we are competing with countries like the USA and the UK for the bottom places for measures such as diabetes, obesity, and suicide. The common factor is our adopting the US free-market health model from the 1970s, which included its love affair with patent medicines.

I've been in the health business for about 45 years, and during this time, the prescribing of drugs in healthy New Zealand has gone from almost zero to astronomical. Yet, at the same time, we've become less healthy, thus adding weight to my opinion that few drugs convey good health, whereas most result in worsening health. Twenty years ago, having a client under 50 years old on medication other than a contraceptive was rare. Likewise, it was rare to have a child on medication. Nowadays, most Kiwis, including many children, are medicated, often on multiple drugs, for life — a life dogged by multiple illnesses, chronic fatigue, and a short one.

Big Pharma, Big Chemical, Big Food and Big Agriculture control medicine, including what is prescribed: Not the doctors any more.

Especially now in the mRNA era, medicine is, without doubt, the biggest killer in first-world countries, including Godzone — New Zealand. While some drugs, such as statins and bisphosphonates, are terrible and should be banned from general use, they aren't the real problem: The bigger problem is prescribing multiple medications with scant care or regard for their complex interactions.

Few people die from old age these days. Instead, they die from medication side effects and malnutrition from depleted food.

Reality Check: All drugs have side effects

Each drug has a long list of side effects. However, most side effects are subtle and tend to creep up on the user over the years. Because of this creepy-crawly effect, the user may not realise their increasing fragility, including new ailments, are due to the medication's toxic effects. Instead, they may think they feel so terrible because they are getting old, just like all their ageing friends, who, incidentally, are probably equally medicated.

Drug interactions are complex and seldom known before they go on the market. If harmful side effects and drug interactions are discovered and acted upon, these are almost always years after the drug has been on the market and only after untold harm may have been caused. This is why a person must be cautious about the new miracle wonder drug. It's usually better to go with the older drug that doctors are familiar with, even if it has more side effects than the new one. Give the new one a few years to catch up, please!

Once a person is on three or more drugs we would need a supercomputer to keep track of all the interactions, assuming they were all known!

How did we get into this mess?

The drugs don't work!

Other than treating infections and helping resuscitate and repair a person after being run over by a bus, modern medicine is an abject failure when it comes to most ailments related to ageing, stress, inactivity and malnutrition.

Treating the symptoms and not the cause

Modern-day medical treatment is about suppressing symptoms, not the root causes of ill health. Is this because a healthy person is a liability for our for-profit health system?

No understanding of human nutrition

The modern-day allopathic doctor, compared to the holistic one that this government wants to remove via the Therapeutic Products Bill, has only a few hours of education in human nutrition, most of which is about interactions of various foods with drugs. I sometimes joke that a person is better off consulting a rural vet or, even better, a farmer about nutrition. How true!

Your doctor has only ten to fifteen minutes to spend with you

To get down to the nitty-gritty of ill health, your health professional needs one hour, not ten minutes. Unfortunately, the for-profit business model that medical practises operate under requires, on average, no more than ten minutes to be spent with a patient. Patients must book and pay for a double appointment if they want more time, and most people can't afford that. Ten minutes is only enough for a brief get-to-know-you and what's-up exchange, with most of the doctor's time spent peering at the list of Pharmac-approved drugs, filling out the prescription, or referring you for further testing or to a specialist or allied health professional such as a podiatrist.

As an aside: When I worked in ACC's Head Office, it was reported that the shortest specialist consultation was less than ten seconds, for which ACC was billed hundreds of dollars!

Health professionals do not communicate well with each other

When I studied rehabilitation at Otago Medical School, they taught us the importance of the multidisciplinary case conference. I took this back to my own rehabilitation business, but do you think I could consistently get the doctors, physiotherapists, nutritionists, and other health professionals into a conference room once a week? It was impossible — unworkable. Besides, who pays to get these busy and highly paid health professionals into a room to review patient healthcare plans? So, they work primarily alone, relying on speed-reading patient files minutes before the appointment.

Hierarchy and strict rules of engagement bind health professionals

I learned early on while working in Dunedin and Cherry Farm Hospitals that the underlings never question the person above them in the pecking order, with the medical specialist at the top. Still, more recently, the health bureaucrat and the politicians occupy the top perch, dictating what happens in the clinic! Hence, a general practitioner never doubts what a medical specialist may prescribe, let alone over-rides their treatment, and they live in fear of the bureaucrats. Additionally, a doctor understands he or she will not stray into another area of expertise, nor may they question another doctor's prescribing, let alone change or cancel the prescription.

Clinical practise guidelines supplant professional intuition and experience

Each health problem has a set of treatment guidelines known as Clinical Practise. These are evidence-based documents with recommendations to optimise patient care. These are evidence-based documents with recommendations to optimise patient care and support health care. with recommendations to optimise patient care and support health care. recommendations to optimise patient care and support health care. . These are evidence-based documents with recommendations to optimise patient care and support health care.

So, for a condition like high blood pressure, the guidelines might include prescribing a beta-blocker, a diuretic and a statin — plus a drug to relieve stomach upset from the toxicity of these drugs.

Now, here's the thing: If the doctor was to leave out or later replace one or more of the approved drugs, say, because of unpleasant side effects or the insistence of the patient and replace them with an equally effective lifestyle or nutrition-based alternative, they are playing with fire. If the patient, by pure chance, were to suffer a stroke utterly unrelated to the alternatives, the doctor may face a costly and career-ending investigation. On the other hand, if the patient was treated by following the guidelines and suffered a stroke, the doctor has nothing to fear.

The Perfect Storm arises, and the dominos of health begin to tumble

So, a cardiologist may prescribe several heart drugs that cause a tummy upset, like reflux, so that the gastroenterologist may prescribe reflux meds and laxatives. Then, years later, the patient begins to suffer side effects of the drugs, such as accelerated arthritis and osteoporosis, so the endocrinologist may prescribe "bone-sparing drugs" and toxic doses of vitamin D. The patient is in pain from arthritis and polymyalgia so he is prescribed steroids, sleeping pills, and painkillers, which become an addiction. A knee replacement becomes necessary, and, later, a hip replacement. While beneficial and necessary, these operations knock the stuffing out of a toxic and weakened patient. Then the patient's nerves fail, and Parkinsonian symptoms become obvious. Hence, a neurologist prescribes even more medication, which causes further health problems, including catastrophic organ failure. This is Polypharmacy, resulting in a steep decline in health, organ failure, and miserable premature death. Sometimes I get a headache just trying to track all the possible interactions from a person's list of drugs: I need a supercomputer!

All the while, each doctor is either oblivious to the catastrophic chain of events they're party to, doesn't care, or knows to keep to their patch, even if the patient suffers harm — or all of the above.

The treatment was a success, although the patient died!

The health system works these days, relying on a person being ill from the cradle to the grave. As I said earlier, a healthy person is a liability. Nutrition and lifestyle are the enemies of the health system. Poor health equals profit. The health system's goal isn't to improve health but to empty a person's pockets before they die. At what age they die is irrelevant. Neither is whether their time was productive and rewarding or miserable, so long as they took as many drugs as possible (polypharmacy) during their shortened and miserable life. This is the sad truth, thus explaining why we are such an unhealthy lot nowadays and why today's young people aren't living as long as the post-war Baby-Boom Generation.


Invest in health to stay at least 20 years ahead of all diseases!

As we get older, we all have the seeds of disease within our bodies. However, so long as we maintain a healthy, robust body to maintain a nimble and strong immune system, we make sure those seeds never germinate. I recommend the following steps to provide enduring health and fitness:

  1. Do a stocktake to accurately assess your body's nutrient status, including toxins such as mercury and arsenic, plus an overview of the health of your organ systems (adrenals, thyroid, liver, etc.). After all, you wouldn't run your business without an accurate and up-to-date set of accounts, and the same discipline should be applied to your body. There's no excuse for not assessing your health status because we have the technology. The first and, usually, the only test required is a hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA). Details can be found here, including how to purchase a test for you or a loved one:

  2. Consult with me to review the report's findings and tailor it to your needs, although the lab's reporting is excellent. If you are on medication or under the care of a health professional for a health issue, then a consultation with me is highly recommended, if not mandatory.

  3. Patiently and consistently apply the recommendations we settled upon for about six months, sending me updates every 6-8 weeks, and I'll respond with advice, including adjustments. This may include the careful and gradual reduction of medications as the nutritional and lifestyle interventions slowly work their magic and the need for medication declines. This process of reducing medication is usually done with the assistance of a primary healthcare professional.

  4. At the six-month point, I recommend repeating the HTMA so we can accurately track your progress and receive guidance about where to refocus our attention. Once we have the repeat test, we meet and take things from there.

  5. After the follow-up repeat test, if you are proceeding well and without complications, I may recommend repeating the HTMA after another year, then every few years, or after any time in your life when there's been a significant change in your health, such as following an accident or any event that might be considered a setback in your health. Athletes may repeat the test more often, such as between seasons

By regularly testing your health status, it is possible to get ahead of all diseases that may be percolating deep within, but bear in mind that it takes time - I'd say 5-10 years. Then the goal is to stay ahead: Twenty years ahead! This strategy is the key to living a long, healthy, and productive life — doing so with joy and satisfaction and without needing pharmaceutical drugs.

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