News | March 15, 2006

Seniors Particularly Vulnerable To Poisonings Caused By Medications

ASHP Offers Medication Safety Tips During National Poison Prevention Week

Bethesda, MD - Seniors who take multiple medications are increasingly at risk for accidental poisonings, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). Older patients have complex medication regimens, often involving multiple medications prescribed by several physicians, that make them vulnerable to accidental poisonings. ASHP recognized the importance of providing seniors and caregivers with poison prevention information and is issuing practical and proactive tips – during National Poison Prevention Week, March 19-25 – seniors can take to safeguard themselves.

"Medication poisonings are a problem among our growing senior population," said Daniel J. Cobaugh, Pharm.D., FAACT, DABAT, director of research for the ASHP Research and Education Foundation. "The good news is that healthcare professionals and seniors can work together to create a solution. By being active participants in their healthcare and by staying informed of their medications and conditions, seniors and their caregivers can help their doctors and pharmacists ensure they get the best possible care."

ASHP recommends that patients:

  • Keep a list of your medications. A written record of the medications you are taking, including drug name, dosage, and frequency, is an important tool to have during physician visits and in case of an emergency.
  • Communicate. Inform your doctor and pharmacist of all the medications you are taking, including non-prescription medications and dietary supplements; this will help reduce the chances of an interaction.
  • Learn about your medications. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain why you are taking the medication you have been prescribed, the food and medicines you should avoid, and possible reactions and side effects.
  • Use one pharmacy. Many seniors receive prescriptions from more than one doctor, making drug interactions more likely. By using one pharmacy, all of your prescriptions are consolidated and your pharmacist can check for possible interactions between medications.
  • Keep a journal. Make note of all symptoms, especially after taking your medications. Painful or unexpected side effects may signal a need for adjusting your medication regimen.
  • Maintain a schedule. Holding to a routine can decrease your chances of missing dosages or taking more than needed.

"Patients should immediately contact their physician if they experience an adverse reaction to their medicines," says Cobaugh. If the physician is not available, Cobaugh recommends contacting the local poison center using the toll free number (800) 222-1222. "Many poison control centers are staffed by pharmacists, whose training makes them uniquely qualified to advise seniors and caregivers in the event of an emergency."