On the shelf: ‘Are Your Prescriptions Killing You?’ by Armon B. Neel, Jr.

By Lisa Boss, Grand Rapids Public Library, Main


Are Your Prescriptions Killing You?: How to Prevent Dangerous Interactions, Avoid Deadly Side Effects, and be Healthier with Fewer Drugs


Hopefully not! But there’s trouble in Pillville, and the author has penned an incredibly useful and lively book addressing the problem. Armon Neel, PharmD., has been a “consulting pharmacist” for over 30 years, helping institutions, caregivers and patients with medication reviews. Many meds that might be ok for a younger person can cause havoc in those over 60. Why? Well, no matter how “healthy” we are, our internal organs experience a natural “decline in physiological reserve” over time.


So by 60, we have a lot less capability in our liver, kidneys, digestive system, than we had in our twenties. This natural diminution in enzymes etc., effects our bodies ability to take in, use and eliminate medications. Some meds don’t mix well; some may be causing more problems than they are supposedly fixing; and worst case, many deaths are caused by medications each year.


A realist who has lived through decades of  medical history, Neel goes into some of the statistical tricks that are used to “sell” new (and expensive) drugs and explains terms like “medication cascade”, “exponential effect of polypharmacy”, NNT (number needed to treat). A writer for AARP, Reader’s Digest and Prevention, Neel sorts out complex material and presents it in a commonsense way.


Filled with anecdotes from the author’s long experience, I found it absorbing enough to read cover to cover. His message is not that we should forgo medication (he’s a pharmacist after all), but that we need to be be careful. Neel’s book is also a timely read, as our country faces a health care crisis, and we are all looking for answers to create better care at less expense.