Get in the mix: Knowledge, diligence key in preventing drug interactions

The statistics are staggering– and scary. A research team from the University of Chicago found that, out of 175,000 emergency hospital visits made by seniors last year, 33 percent were made due to interactions from commonly prescribed drugs.

While the thought is unsettling, consider the facts; one in 25 American seniors (roughly 2.2. million) take combinations of prescription drugs and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. This places the demographic at a much higher risk for harmful interactions, according to a recently published report by the American Medical Association.

The study also revealed that the risk of adverse reactions from drug combinations only increases with age– and especially so among females.

So, what if you have a friend or family member living independently, but who is faced with navigating the tricky– and dangerous– combination of his or her own daily medication roster?

The answer? Team up and arm yourself—and your loved one– with all the knowledge possible to prevent interactions.

For starters, here are some common senior-prescribed drugs and their subsequent interactions:

The hit list: Common combos, harmful interactions

Prescription(s): Warfarin, a prescription blood thinning drug (also marketed under the brand name “Coumadin”), Cholesterol-lowering drug “Simvastatin,” (also marketed under the brand name “Zocor”) taken in combination with “Warfarin”

OTC: Aspirin

Interaction: Bleeding

Prescription: Lisinopril (or Prinivil brand)

OTC: Potassium supplements

Outcome: Can disrupt heart rhythms.

Prescription: Atorvastatin (Lipitor brand) or Simvastatin (Zocor brand)

OTC: Supplement niacin (vitamin B3)

Outcome: Muscle weakness/breakdown.

Knowledge is power: Safety tips can help prevent harmful interactions

You and your elderly loved one are not powerless in the prevention of prescription and OTC drug interactions. Consider the following safety tips for further power against the perils of prescriptions:

• Sit with your loved one and create a list of all medications. Have this individual keep the list in their purse or wallet.

• Talk with your loved one’s health care provider– make the list is reviewed by a medical professional during every visit your loved one makes to their MD. (Note: If your loved one sees more than one provider, make sure to inform each one of all medications.)

• Purchase prescriptions and OTC medications from only one pharmacy or chain. The benefit? All of your loved one’s drug information will be on one database, making it easier for the pharmacist to check your list for possible adverse interactions.

• Go online: Check out the site for the U.S. National Library of Medicine– it contains more information about interactions of a multitude of drugs.

Communication is key

Have a conversation with your loved one, where you review the times and dosing instructions. Then, put a plan in place; set timers or write out a daily schedule if need be.

And, aside from remaining in open communication with your loved one’s doctor and pharmacists, keep tabs on the drug intake habits of your loved one by talking to anyone who may help with caretaking– in-home nurses, adult day care employees or physical therapists. Make sure the medications are being taken exactly when and how they are prescribed.

With a proper plan in place, you can help your loved on stay safe, healthy and free from the perils of drug interactions.

For more information on the study mentioned in this article, visit:


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This entry was posted by admin on Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 at 11:46 am and is filed under Aging In Place, Alzheimer\'s/Dementia, Caregiving, Family Caregivers, Health and Lifestyles . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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