Older members, multiple medicines — prescription for error

Mixing common prescription and over-the-counter medicines with dietary supplements can be deadly. But it happens, especially among older members — and the numbers are increasing.

How does it happen?

Many older members get medicines from more than one doctor. They can also fill prescriptions at different pharmacies. And they often take dietary supplements without telling their primary care doctor. When they do all three at the same time, health problems can happen.

Study shows increase in potentially deadly drug combinations

A University of Illinois study in 2016 examined changes in medicine use in over 2,000 adults between the ages of 62 and 85 nationwide. The results showed that one in six older adults now regularly use potentially deadly combinations. That’s a two-fold increase in the number of seniors taking dangerous drug combinations in the past five years.1

The most common example — a senior taking a statin to lower cholesterol, plus clopidogrel to prevent blood clots, along with omega-3 fish oil. That combination can create a dangerous drug interaction.

Many seniors also use clopidogrel in combination with the proton-pump inhibitor omeprazole, aspirin, or naproxen — all over-the-counter medications. This is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks, bleeding complications, or death.

The more medicines and supplements, the harder to monitor

So what’s causing the increase? Factors include:

  • Changes in treatment guidelines
  • Availability of pharmacy benefit insurance through the implementation of Medicare Part D
  • Increased availability of generics for many commonly used drugs.1

Another challenge is the increased use of dietary supplements among older members to stay healthy. The study found that the number of older adults using multiple supplements grew from 51.8 percent to 63.7 percent. And more than half of the potential interactions involved a nonprescription medicine or dietary supplement.

Prime does double duty; helps members stay adherent and avoid drug events

The good news: Prime Therapeutics’ (Prime) medication therapy management (MTM) program is helping. And we can prove it.

Prime’s MTM program counsels members taking multiple medicines. The goal is to help improve outcomes and avoid adverse drug events. Our expanded multi-channel approach helps to increase completion rates for comprehensive medication reviews (CMR). Prime’s tailored MTM program delivered CMR completion rates averaging more than 37 percent.2

Several GuidedHealth programs address common issues of overuse, drug safety and multiple medicine concerns.

Putting members first

To reduce the risk of dangerous drug interactions, everyone has to be proactive. That includes members, prescribers, pharmacists, health plans and — yes — pharmacy benefit managers. Prime is committed to helping members get the medicine they need to feel better and live well. It’s our purpose. It drives our MTM program and so much more.

For information on Prime’s MTM program and other drug safety programs, contact your Prime representative.

1. “More elderly using dangerous drug combinations,” by Sam Hostettler. March 21, 2016. The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Accessed at: https://news.uic.edu/more-elderly-using-dangerous-drug-combinations

2. Prime’s Medicare Book of Business 2015.

 

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