Over 65 and Taking Prescription Medications? These 6 Tips will Protect You from Serious Complications
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), shows that older adults use more prescription medications than their younger counterparts— and are therefore at high risk for complications from those medications. The study found that 81% of the people it surveyed who were between the ages of 57 and 85 take at least one prescription medication regularly. But one medication is not always sufficient to manage the conditions these seniors have. Nearly one-third regularly take at least five prescription medications. And even that doesn’t give a full picture of the medications this population takes, since it doesn’t consider the effects of over-the-counter medications and nutritional supplements, used by nearly 50% of the study’s participants.
Why is that a problem? Because as the number of medications goes up, the possible interactions between them do, too. Medication interactions are a serious, causing nearly three-quarters of all complications that follow hospitalizations.
Many pharmacies have software to check for monitor interactions between various prescription medications, but that isn’t enough. The study found that half of all major drug interactions involved combining prescription medications with over-the-counter drugs or nutritional supplements. And most software doesn’t take that into account.
Just a handful of prescription and over-the-counter medications are the most common culprits in drug interactions that result in hospital admission. They are: low-dose aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), diuretics, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil, Motrin, and Aleve.
The other major cause of adverse drug reactions is having the incorrect dosing for the patient’s age, weight, and medical condition, particularly their kidney function.
What can you do to prevent drug interactions? Follow these 6 tips:
- Spill the beans. When a healthcare provider asks you what medications you take, tell them everything, even your mineral and vitamin supplements.
- Be proactive. If you are being prescribed a new medication or supplement, don’t wait to be told about interactions: ask about them — and about all possible side effects, as well.
- Double-check. Once you’ve heard it all from your healthcare provider, ask your pharmacist for the same information. Pharmacists are trained to understand the mechanisms and interactions of medications. Your doctor isn’t the only one who should have a list of every pill you take, your pharmacist should have one, as well.
- Put it in writing. Write down whatever you’re told about medications you’re taking. You don’t want to risk forgetting a possible side-effect or a symptom of a drug interaction.
- Stick to the same pharmacy. Variety may be the spice of life, but not when it comes to where you get your medicines. The best way to ensure an expert has a full list of all your medications is to go to the same pharmacy with all your medication purchases.
- Read the fine print. The package insert that comes with a medication can sometimes be a daunting read, and not only because it’s in such small type. But reading it is worthwhile. It will warn of possible side effects and known interactions. If you don’t know what a term, like urticaria, means, just ask.
Drug complications may go up as the number of medications you take go up. But you can still keep yourself safe.
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