The Dangers of Medication Mix-Ups

Medication Management is an vital aspect of what we provide at Advocare. Medication mix-ups can cause significant problems for those of advanced age, at times landing them in the hospital or worse. Having a Nurse Advocate to coordinate with doctors and monitor medications leads to peace of mind for families and better quality of life for seniors. The following article delves into the problem of adverse drug effects that can be caused particularly when someone is taking many medications. Always discuss your medications fully with your doctor so that you have complete understanding of what it is for and what it will do for you, and seek the counsel of a professional Care Manager when things get complicated. 

At the beginning of the New Year, it’s important for each of us to examine our health and lifestyle and plan for ways to improve in 2017. For better or worse, we are a society accustomed to taking multiple medications. As we age, we tend to accumulate a list of daily prescription medications; health care professionals and pharmacists call this practice “poly-pharmacy.” It’s common for the average American to see several different doctors for different conditions, and for each doctor to prescribe a particular remedy. In general, there’s a real risk for poor coordination of care among primary care doctors and specialists due to the fragmentation of health care – and this can lead to having multiple drugs prescribed for similar ailments. In addition, the availability of over-the-counter therapies presents the opportunity for even more drug interactions. Your doctors might not be aware of all these, if they don’t know you’re taking a particular OTC medication in conjunction with prescription medications. Side effects can range from mild to severe and can even include death. With the ongoing epidemic of opioid painkiller use in the United States, the stakes have never been higher when it comes to understanding your medications and how they can interact.

How Big Is the Problem?

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests four visits to the ER per 1,000 adults annually are for adverse drug effects. Currently, almost 60 percent of Americans are taking at least one prescription drug, and nearly 20 percent are taking more than five prescriptions medicines. Add in over-the-counter medicines, and you have a huge potential for side effects, drug-drug interactions and negative outcomes. While the study found that on average, 1 in every 250 ER visits was due to adverse drug events, rates among the elderly are even higher. This age group is at particularly high risk for drug mix-ups, as many of them take more than 10 drugs (both prescription and OTC) at a time. Many of the drugs they take can result in confusion; plus, dementia rates in this demographic are high and can contribute to medication errors at home. In fact, in the JAMA study, researchers found that nearly 30 percent of all ER visits due to adverse drug events were seen in elderly patients. Older Americans typically have more chronic medical problems and less reserve to deal with drug side effects and interactions.

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