Managing Mom's Meds:
Safe Prescription Drug Use for Older Adults
10 Tips for National Patient Safety Week
More than 2.3 million
drug-related errors affect older Americans each year, often resulting in rush trips to the emergency room, expensive hospitalization and subsequently, the potential decline of a senior citizen's independence.
According to Prescription Solutions, a national pharmacy benefit management company that manages prescription drug benefits for millions of older Americans, there are precautions that seniors, their adult children and caregivers can take to prevent mishaps related to prescription use.
"Some older Americans, who may be taking six to ten medications at one time, as well as their adult children and caregivers, may be unaware of potentially harmful drug interactions or side effects," said Joseph Addiego, M.D., Prescription Solutions' chief medical officer.
"Safety is also compromised when people try to save money by reducing a dosage, sharing or hoarding drugs, or even not filling a prescription because of the cost. These actions can cause serious health consequences."
National Patient Safety Week is March 6-12, and the experts at Prescription Solutions, including more than 150 pharmacists, nurses and physicians, recommend the following steps for seniors, their families and caregivers to make sure they are using prescription drugs properly and economizing in ways that are safe and not harmful:
1) Bring current prescription medications at least once a year to your
primary care doctor's office and have them reviewed to verify that
each medication is still useful and appropriate, and to ensure that
the combination of medications is safe.
2) Store medications properly at home. Most people keep medications in
the bathroom medicine cabinet, where they can get damp and lose
potency. A dry place such as a kitchen cabinet or bedroom is a
better storage location as long as the medications are out of reach
of children or safely locked away.
3) Keep the appropriate medication in the correct bottle. Don't mix
different medications in the same bottle to save space or for
traveling, for example.
4) Check medications several times a year to make sure they have not
5) Dispose of old and expired medications properly by flushing them down
a toilet. Don't throw them in the trash where a child might find and
6) Develop a relationship with your local pharmacist to consult with
questions about the proper use of medications and possible drug
interactions. If you are using a mail order pharmacy, you can
consult with one of the pharmacists by phone.
7) For chronic conditions, find out if your benefit program offers a
mail order pharmacy for refills of medications used to treat them.
Mail service offers a number of attractive features for seniors, such
8) Find out from your pharmacist or physician about the possibility of
taking generic drugs as opposed to brand-name drugs. A generic drug
that is deemed therapeutically equivalent to a brand-name drug may be
considerably more affordable.
- Safety. Because the mail service facility will have a record of
other prescriptions that you are taking, pharmacists can check
for potential drug interactions before a drug is dispensed.
- Cost savings. By ordering from mail service, seniors can
receive a 90-day supply of medications for treatments of
chronic conditions versus the typical 30-days supplied by local
retail pharmacies, thus saving money by having fewer co-pays
when prescriptions are filled.
- Convenience. Drugs can be ordered from the mail service
pharmacy by telephone, mail or online - a great convenience for
many seniors whose mobility may be limited.
9) Check with your health plan or pharmacy to see if they offer other
cost-saving opportunities such as discount cards for prescriptions or
over-the-counter medications at the local pharmacy.
10) Although it may appear to be an attractive way to save money, do not
order drugs from unknown Web sites. Order only from a Web site
through your own health plan or retail pharmacy that provides
password protection for its members.
Unknown Internet pharmacies may
not be licensed or staffed by actual pharmacists, and there are no
guarantees that the medications will be effective, be the correct
dose, or even be the drug they are advertised to be.
Prescription Solutions is an innovative pharmacy benefit management company managing the prescription drug benefit of commercial, Medicare and governmental health plans, as well as those of employers and unions.
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