Managing Medications

The elderly make up 13 percent of the population, but they buy 30 percent of the prescription drugs sold each year.

It is estimated that 70 percent of older adults also use over-the-counter or nonprescription drugs.

Dangerous drug interactions can result when certain medications, prescription or not, are mixed together.

Age-related changes alter how the body reacts to medications, so effectiveness and side effects must be regularly evaluated.

To avoid medication problems, answer the following questions.

  • Does your doctor periodically evaluate your prescriptions?
  • Are you taking your prescriptions according to directions?
  • Are you getting several different prescriptions from different doctors?
  • Are you having your prescriptions filled at one pharmacy or do you use several pharmacies?
  • Are you checking the expiration dates on your prescriptions and over the counter medications?
  • Can you remove your medicine bottle caps easily?
  • Have you purchased the more affordable generic equivalents of your prescription medicines if they are available to you?
  • Do you know the dangers of “prescription swapping” among friends or family members?

It is essential to inform your primary care doctor about ALL of the drugs that you are taking, whether they are prescription or over-the-counter medicines (including vitamins).

Reprinted from As Families Grow Older © 1999, Winter Park Health Foundation

Resources for Safe and Effective Medication Use

Food and Drug Administration