June 24, 2014

FDA Gives 4 Medication Tips to Older Adults

What is your age? I don't expect an answer, but I do wish to point out some problems as you age. I was surprised that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would put something out about medications for the elderly or older adults. I am especially surprised because they don't approve drugs for the elderly and most trials leading up to approval do not include the elderly.

Speaking from experience, the older one becomes, the more likely you will need additional medications. This is the worry because each addition can increase the risk of harmful drug interactions. Our bodies change and this can affect the way medicines are absorbed, leading to potential drug complications. Think about it, your liver and kidneys may not work as well, and this affects how a drug breaks down and leaves your body. Then consider changes in your digestive system and this can determine how fast drugs get into your bloodstream.

These are the four tips FDA advises for medications:

Take Medicine as Prescribed
Take your medications according to your health care provider's instructions. Do not skip doses or stop taking a medication until you have consulted your provider. I have know fellow patients who say they have talked to their doctor and stopped a medications, but in fact did talk to their doctor, but about something completely unrelated.

This does not mean that just because you are feeling better you can stop taking a medication. If you are experiencing side effects, also talk to your doctor about the side effects. You doctor may wish to change to another medication or reduce the dosage.

For chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, it is important that you take them as directed and continuously to maintain management of your condition. The dosage your doctor prescribes in based on tested and it is never wise to change the dose yourself.

Keep a Medication List
Keep a list of the medications you are taking. List the name of the medication, the dose, what it is for, and when you take it. Many leave important information of the list. If you take a medication three times per day, indicate this by time or meal if eaten with food. If it is AM or PM or both, indicate this.

Consider giving a copy to a trusted friend or family member is you live alone. Keep the list up-to-date if you add medications or the dose changes.

Be Aware of Potential Interactions
As you age, remember, you’re at higher risk for drug interactions.

Interactions can occur when:
  • One drug affects how another drug works;
  • A medical condition you have makes a certain drug potentially harmful;
  • A food or non-alcoholic drink reacts with a drug;
  • A medicine interacts with an alcoholic drink.
Learn which interactions are possible. You can do this by carefully reading drug facts labels on over-the-counter drugs and the information that comes with your prescription medications, and by reviewing any special instructions with your health care provider. For instance nitroglycerin, which treats angina (chest pain related to heart disease), should not be taken with many erectile dysfunction drugs, including Viagra and Cialis, because serious interactions can occur. And some drugs should not be taken with alcohol, as symptoms such as loss of coordination and memory loss can result.”

If you’re seeing multiple health care providers, tell each one about all of your medications and supplements. You also can ask your pharmacist about potential interactions.”

Review Medications with Your Health Care Provider
Schedule at least one annual review of your medications with your health care provider to confirm which medications are still necessary and which you can stop taking (if any). This may not be necessary if each doctor records you medications at each visit. In my case, they do and the doctor's assistant does this and he reviews it.

If a certain medication is out of your budget, ask your health care provider whether there is a cheaper, and still effective, alternative. It is important to remember that there is not a stupid question pertaining to medications. Consider asking questions of your pharmacist if your doctor does not answer the question.

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