How one day could help your patients manage their meds.
Americans take too many prescription drugs-and they don’t even know it. A National Check Your Meds Day could help.
This is emphasized by a recent Consumer Reports article, “America’s Love Affair with Prescription Medication,” based on a nationally representative survey of 1,947 adults. The survey found that 55% of respondents take at least one prescription medication and 75% took at least one OTC medication regularly.
According to Lisa Gill, Deputy Editor for Consumer Reports, the survey only counted long-term prescriptions (those lasting longer than three months) and didn’t include dietary supplements, meaning that the actual number of products taken may be higher.
There appears to be a growing trend. A QuintilesIMS report showed that the total number of prescriptions has risen 85% since 1997, while the population has grown only 21%. Data from the CDC show that the number of Americans taking five medications has tripled in the last 20 years. In the Consumer Reports survey, more than a third of people 55 and older were taking five medications, and 9% were taking more than 10.
Related article: CMR: Beyond the brown-bag review
Much of this medication is necessary. But the price tag for unnecessary medication is huge-more than $200 billion per year. In what Gill called a “spot check”-when a pharmacist examined the medication lists for a random group of 20 people taking at least five medications-only two had lists without any problems.
So why all the unnecessary drugs? Consumer Reports found that 53% of patients get their drugs from more than one health-care provider. Perhaps more worryingly only 50% had ever asked their doctor to review their list of medications and 35% had never had any health-care professional examine their lists.
The solution? Consumer Reports is sponsoring “National Check Your Meds Day” on October 21. Gill said, “My hope is that people take their meds to pharmacists they trust,” she said. “Pharmacists are a terrific resource” for helping to identify problem medications.
Up next: Preparing for the day
On Saturday, October 21, pharmacies across the country will host brown-bag reviews. This is a loose effort to bring pharmacies together to promote the event to their customers. She estimates, based on the survey, that at least half will be taken off of at least one med, or at least recommended to be taken off one after the review. The actual number could be as high as 70% based on extrapolation, she added.
The event coincides with APhA’s American Pharmacists Month, and gives pharmacists yet another way to promote their profession in their community.
Consumer Reports is working with NCPA to help pull off the event. According to John Norton, Director of Public Relations for NCPA, “the more than 22,00 independent community pharmacies we represent are known for their connection and the care they provide their patients. Many of these small business health-care providers offer brown-bag reviews, which are a great organizing tool for ensuring patients are taking the right combination of drugs for their health needs.”
NCPA is also providing resources to promote the event, such as flyers, postcards that can carry a store logo, sign-up sheets, and medication review forms available on its site.
Several large chains are getting involved. Amy Lanctot, Senior Manager of Public Relations at CVS, says that the chain is excited to participate in the event, and its 9,700 stores will be offering free medication reviews. During those reviews, pharmacists will help “patients better understand their prescription medications, determine whether any of their medications could lead to potentially harmful drug interactions, and help them determine the best time of day to take their prescribed medications to ensure greater efficacy and fewer side effects.” Other chains participating include Albertsons, Costco, Sam’s Club, Target, and Walmart.