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More than 50% of American adults take two or more medications daily. Yet, nearly 10% don’t inform their physician, case manager, or hospital personnel about medications they are taking. Still more alarming, only 3% of Americans report bringing their prescriptions with them when they are admitted to the hospital, according to a survey of 1,000 Americans commissioned by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) in Bethesda, MD.
Not surprisingly, rates of prescription drug use were highest among older Americans. Nearly 80% of respondents age 65 and older reported taking one prescription medication each day compared with 63% for Americans age 55 to 64 and 52% for Americans age 45 to 54. In fact, Americans over age 65 who take prescription medications take an average of four each day.
Other findings include:
"Our survey shows that consumers are simultaneously using a variety of prescription and non-prescription medications, as well as herbal supplements and vitamins," says ASHP President Mick L. Hunt, MS. "We want consumers to be aware of the danger for potential drug interactions that can occur when mixing all of these remedies, especially when taking multiple medications each day."
To ensure that medications are used safely and effectively, the ASHP recommends that case managers advise patients to take the following steps:
1. Keep a list of all drug therapies, including prescription and non-prescription drugs, home remedies, and medical foods, and bring that list to their health care provider.
2. Communicate actual self-medication practices to health care providers, especially if the way the medication is taken varies from the originally prescribed directions.
3. Contact their health-system pharmacist with any questions regarding treatments or drugs.
4. Learn the names of prescribed drug products as well as their dosage strengths and schedules.
5. Ask their health care provider or pharmacist whether there are certain foods, beverages, other medicines, or activities that should be avoided while taking a prescribed medication.
6. Request available written information on the drug.
7. Question their pharmacist or health care provider about anything they don’t understand or that doesn’t seem right.
8. Be alert to unexpected changes, such as receiving a prescription refill that seems to have a different strength or appearance from the original prescription.