Managing Multiple Conditions and Medications
Every day, more than 130 million Americans are living with multiple conditions which often requires juggling multiple medications and navigating the myriad of side-effects and contraindications of medication use[i]. On average, 27% of emergency room visits were due to adverse reactions from medications[ii], underscoring the need for better guidance for patients who are managing multiple medications. Estimates are that approximately 125,000 deaths per year in the United States are due to medication nonadherence[iii] and that 33% to 69% of medication-related hospital admissions are due to poor adherence[iv]. The total cost estimates for medication nonadherence range from $100 billion to $300 billion every year, when both direct and indirect costs are included[v].
With an aging population, more medications on the market, and the growing use of specialty medications, the risk of medication mismanagement is a growing concern. For patients and caregivers, managing prescriptions and dosages can be confusing, stressful, and time-consuming. And the more medications patients take, the more likely they are to mismanage them. To help reduce the risk of medication errors and manage multiple meds, patients and caregivers should adhere to the following steps:
- Know what medications are being taken. When it comes to medications–especially powerful medications for serious conditions–it’s important to know what each medication is and why it’s being taken. The more information about the drugs being taking, the more likely it will be taken properly.
- Follow dosing instructions. It’s important that each medication is taken exactly as prescribed. If a condition resolves or patients feel like the medication is no longer effective, consult a physician before stopping the course of medication. In many cases, a medication could be the reason why symptoms subside, or the treatment may take several weeks before improvement is seen.
- Maintain a list of medications. Keeping a list of medications taken, doses, and times can be helpful for caregivers and physicians to stay updated on progress toward managing multiple conditions. This information can be tracked manually or digitally through medication management platforms such as Medisafe. Digital platforms can help alert to contraindications of multiple meds and send reminders of when to take which dose.
- Stick with one pharmacy. When possible, have all medications filled from a single pharmacy. This provides another “backstop”–someone who is aware of all the medications and how they might interact. The pharmacy will also be better able to assist with any OTC medications and how they might interact with prescription drugs.
- Stay on schedule. If taking one or two medications, simply getting into the routine of taking them when you wake up, at a mealtime, or at bedtime can ensure medications are taken as directed. Digital platforms can help to keep on schedule and inform which medications are to be taken with or without food and the frequency of each.
While managing medication may seem like a simple process, it can create major challenges for those whose lives require daily medications to get through the day. The average American takes between 2 to 7 prescription drugs daily, yet 61% of patients cannot identify their own medications. By creating a better understanding of medication use and how to properly take multiple medications, patients can stay consistent and adherent to medications for longer. With medication management as the primary reason people cannot live alone, creating awareness of medication use among patients and caregivers can help to support greater independence and reduce the risk of adverse effects.
[i] Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Chronic care: making the case for ongoing care. 2010. http://www.rwjf.org/files/research/50968chronic.care.chartbook.pdf.
[iii] The price you pay for the drug not taken. McCarthy R Bus Health. 1998 Oct; 16(10):27-8, 30, 32-3.
[iv] Osterberg L, Blaschke TN Engl J Med. 2005 Aug 4; 353(5):487-97.
[v] National Council on Patient Information and Education. Rockville (MD): NCPIE; 2007. Aug, [cited 2011 Nov 4].