Just 35% of older adults taking between one and five medications talked to someone about drug interactions in the past 2 years, according to findings recently released from the National Poll on Healthy Aging.
That number increased to 44% among those older adults taking six or more prescriptions.
“Drug interactions are an important safety concern, especially for older adults,” Preeti Malani, MD, poll director and professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, told Healio Family Medicine. “Given the wide range of prescription and over-the-counter drugs on the market, and the number of drugs that interact with supplements, alcohol and certain foods, it’s hard even for primary care physicians (or other providers) to catch all potential interactions. Although medications are ‘reviewed’ during clinic visits, the potential for drug interactions may not be a focus of that review.”
This survey is one of several using data from the National Poll on Health Aging, which included responses from 1,690 participants aged 50 to 80 years.
Other poll results include:
- 63% reported taking two or more prescription drugs;
- 16% reported taking six or more prescription drugs;
- 63% said their pharmacist and doctor are equally responsible for talking and spotting possible drug interactions;
- 26% said their doctor is solely responsible for these interactions; and
- 21% said they were very confident that they knew how to avoid drug interactions.
Malani offered suggestions on how primary care providers can implement the findings into their practices.
“PCPs should ask patients more details about what medicines and supplements they take, and counsel patients at risk of side effects using language they can understand. Patients that have complicated medication regimens can benefit from formal medication reviews with a pharmacist,” she said.
“Patients should be encouraged to write down the names and dosages of their prescription medicines, and of any supplements and over-the-counter drugs they take, and bring it all to their doctors’ appointments or pharmacies. Also, patients shouldn’t just stop taking a medicine if they think they’re experiencing a side effect — they should also call their doctor’s office or speak with a pharmacist first,” Malani said. – by Janel Miller
University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging. December 2017 Report: Drug Interactions — How to Avoid Them. Available at: www.healthyagingpoll.org. Accessed Nov. 22, 2017.
Malani reports no relevant financial disclosures. Healio Family Medicine was unable to determine the other authors relevant disclosures prior to publication.