These 11 Multitasking Meds Have Many Benefits

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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Almost half of Americans have used a prescription medication in the past 30 days, for a wide variety of benefits. The benefits of medications are the helpful effects you get when you use them, such as lowering blood pressure, treating infection, or relieving pain. Turns out there are some standout medications that can accomplish two or more things, sometimes with very different effects. More than one benefit? That’s a nice upside . . . so what are these multitasking medications?

  1. Propranolol (Inderal) is a beta blocker that wears many hats. Chest pain, irregular heart rhythm, improved mortality after a heart attack, and lowering blood pressure are some key benefits. A small dose of Inderal LA (long acting) may also be used to lower anxiety before public speaking. Propranolol helps for essential/resting tremor (shaking of the hands) and for symptoms related to hyperthyroidism. Propranolol taken daily works for migraine prevention in both kids and adults, and lowers the risk of bleeding from the esophagus in people with liver cirrhosis. Whew.
  2. Amitriptyline (Elavil) is a tricyclic antidepressant with several known benefits. Common uses are for migraine headache prevention in kids and adults, chronic pain management, and improving pain and sleep disturbance in fibromyalgia patients. Amitriptyline was initially approved by the FDA in 1961 for the treatment of depression.
  3. Gabapentin (Neurontin) is commonly prescribed for the treatment of seizure disorder as well as postherpetic neuralgia, the pain after a shingles outbreak. Gabapentin is also used in folks with diabetic neuropathy (nerve pain in their feet and legs) and for those with pain radiating from the low back down the legs (lumbar radiculopathy). Alcohol withdrawal, hot flashes from menopause, and social anxiety disorder are among the other areas where gabapentin has shown benefit.
  4. Topiramate (Topamax) is another seizure medication that was discovered to have multiple benefits. In addition to use in patients with seizure disorder, topiramate is prescribed for the prevention of migraine headaches. Weight loss, binge eating disorder, and alcohol dependence are other potential uses for topiramate. In fact the new weight loss drug Qsymia is a combination of topiramate and phentermine.
  5. Spironolactone (Aldactone) is a diuretic used for heart failure and high blood pressure. Spironolactone, a jack of all trades, is an anti-androgen, so it is beneficial for excess hair growth in women and acne, especially in those with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). Spironolactone also helps reduce the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen (ascites) in liver disease patients.
  6. Metformin (Glucophage) is widely prescribed for the management of type 2 diabetes. Metformin also improves insulin sensitivity in non diabetic women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and regulates ovulation in those with PCOS. Metformin has the awesome upside of weight loss. The coolest new buzz surrounding metformin: in mice studies it extended lifespan. Women with ovarian cancer taking metformin also had improved survival—stay tuned on this.
  7. Aspirin saves lives when given during a heart attack. Aspirin is also widely taken for stroke and heart disease prevention. Aspirin is well known as a pain and fever reducer, and blood thinner in those with atrial fibrillation. In folks at risk of colon cancer, aspirin decreases your risk. However—the pro-tip of using aspirin to keep flowers fresh doesn’t appear to be true, and commercially available flower food (Chrysal) is much better for making a bouquet last.
  8. Bupropion (Wellbutrin) is an atypical antidepressant that has multiple roles. Benefits include the treatment of depression and seasonal affective disorder. Smoking cessation and weight loss are two other perks of bupropion; in fact Zyban is the brand name of bupropion specifically approved for smoking cessation. The new weight loss medication Contrave is a mixture of bupropion and naltrexone. Bonus.
  9. Valproic acid (Depakote) is used for seizure disorder, migraine prevention, and for mania associated with bipolar disorder. Diabetic neuropathy (nerve pain) is another condition where valproic acid is often prescribed.
  10. Carbamazepine (Tegretol) is primarily used for seizure disorder, bipolar disorder, and for the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia—a painful condition that causes severe facial pain. Carbamazepine is being studied for restless leg syndrome.
  11. Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) has two very different benefits. Plaquenil is prescribed for the treatment of malaria, as well as for the treatment of two autoimmune diseases: lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Wait, what? Yep. Plaquenil, an antimalarial, diminishes the formation of proteins required to stimulate CD4+ T cells, which result in down-regulation of the immune response. Random.

What did I miss?

Dr O.

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