By: Justin Ceravolo, PharmD, assistant pharmacy manager for Cypress Pharmacy
Managing multiple prescriptions can be a daunting task. As we age, we often find ourselves taking more and more medications. In fact, a study found that 40% of older Americans take five or more prescription drugs at the same time. Ninety percent of people over the age of 65 take medication daily.
Called polypharmacy, it’s the simultaneous use of multiple drugs to treat a single ailment or condition or simultaneous use of multiple drugs by a single patient for one or more conditions.
There are many risks in taking multiple medications, including interactions that can diminish or amplify the effects of some drugs. Pair this with over-the-counter treatments and supplements, and potentially dangerous interactions are possible. Multiple prescriptions with similar side effects can make adverse reactions even more intense.
While it can be difficult to keep track of so many medications, there are ways to manage:
- Make sure your doctors know every treatment you are on in order to monitor for possible interactions. While you may go to different doctors for different conditions, it’s best to have one pharmacy manage all your prescriptions. Your pharmacist will also know what foods can influence the effectiveness or safety of the drugs.
- Find a pharmacist who uses Medication Therapy Management (MTM) to reduce the risk of adverse events. Your pharmacist is your advocate and can prevent problems before they happen by reviewing all medications and supplements to consider therapy duplication, adherence issues or potential drug interactions, providing medication education, consultation and advice for proper use.
Your pharmacists may point out if they think your drug dosage is a bit low or high or suggest an alternative with fewer side effects or one that needs to be taken less frequently. They can help space medicines that may interact, so they are more effective, and avoid problems by using information such as your weight and height. Research shows that people who use MTM have fewer problems and can save money.
- Ask your pharmacist if they offer medication packaging solutions. Color-coded cards, sorting and personalized doses, labeled by date and time of day to be taken, can help you manage even the most complex regimens.
- A compounding pharmacy may be able to compound multiple prescriptions into one dose. While compounding is a longtime practice, it has become less common since the advent of standard drug strengths. Unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all approach may not meet your unique needs – this is when custom compounding can provide great benefits.
Compounding pharmacies help patients who are unable to use their medication as directed or who prefer their medication in a certain form. For example, patients may be allergic to preservatives or dyes or require a dosage that is different from standard strengths. While compounded medications are not FDA-approved, the Food and Drug Administration supports compounded prescriptions that are prescribed by a licensed practitioner for a specific patient and compounded by a licensed pharmacy. In addition, state boards of pharmacy regulate the practice of compounding.
With a physician’s permission, a compounding pharmacist can adjust the strength, avoid unwanted ingredients, make the medication taste better and prepare another way to deliver the medicine, such as topical gels, creams, suppositories or sublingual troches. For example, if a patient has difficulty swallowing, a compounding pharmacist may prepare the drug as a flavored liquid suspension.
Medication can help us live longer. While managing multiple prescriptions can be challenging, it doesn’t have to be.