take at least five prescription medications. More than 1 out of 4 Canadians (27%) over 65 take at least ten prescription medications.
There is a lot of medication in a cabinet or drawer to track when to take, but it can also mean an increased risk of interactions and medication errors.
According to The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) data, in 2016, 1 in 143 Canadian seniors were hospitalized due to adverse effects of their medication and (CIHI 2018) seniors are hospitalized five times more often than people under the age of 65 due to medication effects.
What could contribute to this? Well, we need to keep in mind that as we age:
- The brain becomes more sensitive to drug effects
- Medications stay longer in our bodies because we have less muscle and more body fat.
- Our liver and kidneys do not process medications as efficiently as when we were younger.
- Our body contains less water, and drugs can become more concentrated
In addition, individuals with multiple chronic conditions often take numerous medications to manage each condition, which can lead to drug-drug interactions (drugs interacting with each other) or drug-disease interactions (drugs may have unpredictable effects on another disease).
Unfortunately, additional medications are sometimes prescribed to counteract existing drugs' harmful effects, which can also exacerbate the problem and get confusing.
While taking multiple medications can be problematic, there are some simple strategies you can do to simplify or reduce risk.
1. Book a medication review with one of our pharmacists. It is beneficial to reassess all your medications regularly particularly if you are on multiple medications. If you are on medications for mental health,…….. let’s take the time to sit and review. Of the drugs, some may be combined, some no longer needed, or something new and more convenient may be available on the market.
2. Talk to our pharmacist and be alert to high-risk medications. The drugs that most often cause dangerous side effects are anticoagulants, or "blood thinners," such as warfarin (Coumadin) or certain that can trigger heart rhythm disturbances.
3. Use our blister packing services or technology to help. Trying to juggle an array of prescription bottles can lead to errors. If you or a loved one takes a lot of medications or is having trouble keeping them straight, consider having them blister packed at our pharmacy or by using an automatic pill dispenser. Dispensaries Ltd can pack medications into weekly convenience cards for up to a month (more if needed for travelling). Commercially available electronic devices can be filled once a week and automatically dispense the correct pills at the correct times. This can be a great help for people with memory problems or so many different prescriptions that it's challenging to keep track.
4. Watch for side effects. When you start a new medication, take note of new symptoms, even if they don't seem related. For example, the drugs known as ACE inhibitors, taken for heart and blood pressure conditions, often cause a dry cough that many people chalk up to allergies or a respiratory infection. While you should give a new prescription a chance, don't just tolerate a troubling symptom; bring it to our attention.
5. Discontinue unneeded prescriptions and dispose of them. Having old medications in the house can often lead to confusion, medication errors or interactions. If you have old medications please dispose of them appropriately. You can bring them to the pharmacy where we can ensure they don’t contaminate our soil and water.