How do I avoid drug interactions?

When Marie was discharged from the hospital, she had prescriptions for ingesting twenty one pills a day, from nine different bottles. The directives were as varied as the drugs: take three or four times a day, or every twelve hours, in the morning/ evening/ with meals, along with listed times of when the last dose was dispensed. It was overwhelming and mistakes were made.

This is an example of polypharmacy, taking multiple medications for various conditions. According to an article in American Nurse Today, “44% of men and 57% of women older than the age of 65 take five or more medications per week; about 12% of both men and women take ten or more medications per week.”

There is an increased cost to polypharmacy because older adults metabolize drugs differently and are more susceptible to possible harm from their medications. “A study published in Pharmacotherapy revealed that more than two thirds of hospitalized elderly adults had an adverse effect over a four year period.”

Avoid some of the more common medication mistakes, such as, taking medication incorrectly, or ingesting more than is prescribed. There are many tools available to assist: pill organizers, dispensers or reminders. The following tips may also help you or your loved one cope:

Medication Management

...Inform your doctor about any previous drug effects.

...Ask the doctor if the dosage is “age appropriate “.

...Procure a second opinion when in doubt.

...Minimize the number of doctors and pharmacies used.

...Maintain and carry updated medication lists.

...Monitor closely those cognitively impaired.

...Be aware of medications unsafe for seniors.

...Know the side effects of the medication.

...Talk with the pharmacist and ask questions.

...Read the pharmacy label for “why” you are taking the drug.

This is the annual open enrollment period which allows you to compare all the offerings for prescription provider services for next year. Just because your current plan is affordable this year, does not preclude how your medications may be handled in the new year: premiums change, copays are adjusted, preferred pharmacies may become standard, deductibles are added or changed, and drugs may shift tiers, or be dropped from the formularies altogether. Always shop the prescription part of your plan so you are not caught unaware.