Category: Prescription Drugs
Are you taking a high-risk medication? Here Is what you should know
As a pharmacist, I know the life-saving potential of every medication on the market. But even the safest and most effective medications have some effect on your body beyond just their intended purpose. Some medications come with side effects, limited effectiveness, and other concerns that may make a drug more risky than beneficial for an individual. This risk can be made worse by taking certain medicines together.
A listing called the Beers Criteria (named for the scientist who developed it) identifies these medications. They are known as high-risk medications (HRMs), potentially inappropriate medications (PIMs), or drugs to avoid in the elderly (DAEs).
There are several reasons why you may be prescribed a HRM:
- You may have multiple doctors prescribing medications that are safe on their own, but have increased risks when combined with other medications.
- You may have been prescribed the medication years ago and are continuing use it past a safe stage.
- Your doctor may have determined that the benefits outweigh the risks for you and other patients.
- Safer medications may be more costly or less available.
- There may not be effective alternatives available.
How Can I Avoid Potentially High-Risk Medications?
Drug safety starts with awareness. Keep track of all medications you’re taking and make sure your doctor has access to the list before he/she prescribes you any new medicines. Be willing to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to say something if you’re unhappy with a prescribing decision. If you’re helping a loved one manage his/her prescriptions, be sure to keep up to date on the medications and help avoid the use of any potentially risky new medicines.
It’s important to always use your prescription benefit card — even when buying medications that aren’t covered by your plan or are available over the counter. By doing so, potential drug interactions can be tracked and pharmacists can help prevent harm to the patient.
What Should I Do if I’m Prescribed a HRM?
First, you should talk with your doctor or pharmacist about potential alternatives. If it’s deemed that the HRM is still your best option, take note of the possible risks and side effects. If you feel that you’re experiencing any issues, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor to see if there’s another alternative for you.
While these drugs could pose an increased risk at times, they can and do help people. By being proactive and aware of potential benefits and risks of each medicine, you can make an informed decision with your doctor about whether a medication is right for you.
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Tips to avoid harmful interactions and track your medications
More than half of adults 65 and older take four or more prescriptions on a regular basis. It’s no wonder that harmful drug interactions are a major worry for many seniors.
Note: Drug interaction occurs when there is a reaction between two (or more) drugs, or between a drug and a food/beverage or dietary supplement, or between a drug and an existing condition. Drug interactions may make your drug less effective, cause unexpected side effects or increase the action of a particular drug. Some drug interactions can be harmful to you.
- Which condition does the medication treat?
- When your doctor gives you a new prescription, the first thing to ask is which condition it treats.
- Keep track of your medications with a personal medication record. Include prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and dietary supplements.
- Include the drug’s name, strength, dose, when you take it, what it looks like and which condition it treats. Also list the contact information of the doctor who prescribed it, and the date you started taking it.
- Be sure to update this record whenever your prescriptions change. If you take a generic medication instead of a brand-name medication, note this information.
- Will this drug interact in a harmful way with any of my other medications?
- Make sure your doctors are aware of any medications you currently take before they prescribe a new one.
- Always ask your doctor if there is anything you should avoid eating or drinking while taking a drug. Some foods and beverages, such as grapefruit or alcohol, can cause harmful interactions with certain medications.
Tips that can help reduce the risk of a medication error or harmful drug interaction:
- Take your medication record to medical appointments and share with your doctors. Show it to your pharmacist before filling a prescription.
- Make a copy of your medication record and carry it with you, such as in your wallet or handbag. Provide the list to a new doctor or pharmacist and have it with you in case of an emergency.
- Do I need to take this medication?
- Review all your medications with your doctors to see if there might be some drugs that you may no longer need.
- If your doctor can safely reduce the number of drugs you take, the risk of harmful drug interactions will be lower, and you may save money.
- Is there a generic equivalent or alternative available that would work for me?
- Many brand-name drugs have generic versions. One of the easiest ways to cut prescription drug costs is to switch from a brand-name drug to a generic drug.
- An FDA-approved generic drug is tested for quality and strength and can be expected to work as well as the brand-name version.
- When your doctor writes a new prescription, ask if a generic drug might be right for you. Generally, your doctor will know if a generic equivalent or generic alternative drug is available in place of the brand medication.
- The price difference between brand and generic drugs can be significant — it is estimated that you could save at least two thirds of your drug costs if you use generic drugs.
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