Annual Review Reduces Medication Overload

Medication management is a critical component of good healthcare and yet many older adults who take multiple prescription drugs don’t always use them as directed or have failed to review their medications with their doctor annually.  Medication overload can lead to serious side effects and may increase the risk of falls, overdoses, memory problems and death.  A comprehensive medication review (CMR), often covered by health insurance, can help seniors reduce the number of drugs they take but few older adults are aware of the service.  

According to a recent article in the Journals of Gerontology, among older adults on 2 or more prescription medications, only 20.8 percent had received a CMR while 34.3 percent were interested in a future CMR.  In seniors between the ages of 65 and 80 with any health insurance, most – 83.4 percent were unaware their insurance might cover a CMR.  

The Lown Institute, a nonpartisan health system think tank, reports that each day 750 older Americans are hospitalized due to a serious side effect from one or more medications.  Polypharmacy has become a silent epidemic, and 42 percent of older adults take 5 or more prescription medications.   Nearly 20 percent take 10 drugs or more. 

A culture of prescribing, hurried medical care, information gaps and fragmented care are just a few of the causes leading to medication overload.  But by reducing unnecessary or inappropriate medications for seniors, not only could money be saved by patients and healthcare systems, the number of emergency room visits and hospitalizations could be significantly reduced, easing the burden on an already strained network.  By improving education and awareness and conducting regular prescription checkups, hospitalizations, disability and cognitive decline among seniors taking multiple medications could also be lessened.  

If you are interested in having a CMR, talk with your doctor or pharmacist to schedule an appointment.  An in-person consultation should take about 20 to 30 minutes and be conducted with a registered pharmacist or doctor.   Older adults should keep a list of all current medications and supplements, including name, dosage, how they are taken, intended medical use, and the prescribing doctor.  This list should be posted in a visible spot in the home, like the fridge door, and taken with patients on any hospital or doctor’s visit.   

Visit the Government of Canada website to learn about the safe disposal of expired prescription medication.