Did Polypharmacy contribute to Brittany Murphy’s Death?

Polypharmacy is not the name of a new drug store chain in southern California but rather the use of multiple medications by an individual patient. Taking many different drugs at the same time is not necessarily a bad thing because people can suffer from several diseases and conditions simultaneously and treatment may require the use of multiple medications. However when more than one drug is taken, this situation increases the chance of drug-drug interactions that can have detrimental, even deadly, combination effects.

Polypharmacy has been implicated in the hospitalizations or deaths of several public figures over the past year including, Amy Winehouse, David Hasselhoff, “DJ AM” Adam Goldstein and Michael Jackson.

According to TMZ, paramedics called who were present in Ms. Murphy’s residence found medication containers for the following drugs:

1. Ativan (lorazepam, taken for anxiety disorders)
2. Biaxin (Clarithromycin, an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections)
3. Carbamazepine (used to treat epilepsy, seizures)
4. Flouxetine (Prozac, a well-known antidepressant)
5. Hydrocodone (an opioid painkiller, commonly abused)
6. Klonopin (clonazepam, taken for panic disorder, panic attacks)
7. Methylprednisolone (a corticosteroid used to treat endocrine deficiencies and inflammatory and autoimmune conditions)
8. Propranolol (used to treat high blood pressure)
9. Topamax (an epilepsy drug also approved to prevent migraines)
10. Vicoprofen (A combination of hydrocodone and ibuprofen/Advil)

The medication bottles were not all labeled with Ms. Murphy’s name but also included prescriptions for her husband, her mother and other individuals. Only the upcoming toxicology results will be able to reveal which, if any, of these various drugs were in Ms. Murphy’s body at the time of death and whether they were present in the the prescribed doses.

For more information:

Resounding
Health(tm)
Drug interactions
Resounding
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Opioid analgesics (painkillers)
Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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