Is it Time to Deprescribe?

Man pouring out one pill from bottle
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It’s important to review your current medication regimen on a yearly basis with a clinician. Older adults are taking a multitude of pills, with 66 percent taking five or more and 27 percent taking 10 or more.1 Some of these medications may not even be necessary anymore. While most people rely on their primary physician, “physicians often don’t have enough information about what patients are taking, or may lack the time to talk to patients about these medications.”1 So who can patients talk to about their medications? Pharmacists.

One in Five Older Adults are on an Inappropriate Medication

While medications can be extremely beneficial in managing chronic conditions, taking multiple medications at once can create some risk. About one-third of adverse events in hospitalizations include a drug-related harm, leading to longer hospital stays and greater expense. The National Academy of Medicine estimated that there are 400,000 preventable adverse drug events in hospitals each year, costing $3.5 billion. At least one in five older patients are on an inappropriate medication — one that they can do without or that can be switched to a different, safer drug.2

Pharmacist Involvement Improves Overall Care

Pharmacists do so much more than just dispense prescriptions. They have a wealth of knowledge to assist patients with safe medication use, potential drug interactions as well as preventative services and over the counter medications. There have been a multitude of studies conducted over the years measuring patient improvement when a pharmacist is included as part of the care team working with the physician. In a recent study, published in JAMA, patients were randomly assigned to two groups. With one group, pharmacists gave both patients and their physicians educational materials on the specific drug that might have been inappropriately prescribed. The control group got the usual care, with no educational materials. Within six months, 43 percent of the patients in the intervention group had stopped taking one of the selected medicines. The corresponding figure was 12 percent in the control group.

Tria Health’s Pharmacists

Tria Health was founded on the belief that pharmacists play a vital role in the management of high-risk patients that drive the majority of health care spend. If Tria Health is currently a part of your healthcare plan, call the Tria Health Help desk today for any of your medication-related questions.

Sources:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/28/upshot/pharmacists-drugs-health-unsung-role.html?register=google
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/10/upshot/how-many-pills-are-too-many.html?module=inline

Herbal/Prescription Interaction Awareness Month

Pills on Counter
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July is Herbal/Prescription Interaction Awareness Month. A common misconception with herbal supplements is that because they are “all-natural” it is safe to take. This is especially true for people who may be taking prescription medications. The main purpose of the public health and awareness campaign is to inform the public that herbal supplements can cause potentially dangerous drug interactions when taken with certain medications.

Are Herbal Supplements Safe?1

While herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA as drugs or as foods, they do fall under a category called dietary supplements. It is important to note that the level of regulation and criteria for dietary supplements is not as stringent as it is for food and drug products. The dietary supplement regulations ensure that herbal supplements meet certain quality standards and that the FDA can intervene to remove dangerous products from the market. However, these products can pose unexpected risks because many supplements contain active ingredients that have strong effects in the body. For example, taking a combination of herbal supplements or using supplements together with prescribed medications could lead to harmful, even life-threatening results.

How Herbs Can Interact with Medicines?2

Unfortunately, for many medicines and supplements there’s currently little information on possible interactions, and more research is needed. Some supplements can decrease the effects of medicines, while others can increase the effects, including unwanted side effects, of medicines. Here are a few examples of well-known drug interactions:

  • St. John’s Wort: St. John’s wort interacts with a large number of medications, including antidepressants, allergy drugs, birth control, and warfarin. In most cases, St. John’s wort decreases the effectiveness of the medication; in other cases, however, St. John’s wort may increase the effects of a medication.3
  • Garlic Extract: Concentrated garlic extracts can thin the blood in a manner similar to aspirin, which may be a problem during or after surgery.
  • Green Tea Supplements: Concentrated green tea supplements can interact with pseudoephedrine (a decongestant).

Herbal Supplement Safety Tips

  • If you’re currently taking prescription medications and thinking about starting an herbal supplement, always talk to your doctor or pharmacist first about possible drug interactions.
  • Follow supplement instructions
  • Stick to brands that have been tested by independent sources
  • Keep track of any alerts or advisories. The FDA will notify the public of any supplements that have been reported to cause adverse effects or contain undeclared ingredients.

Tria Health can help

If Tria Health is offered through your benefits plan, you have the option of receiving a one-on-one private consultation with one of Tria Health’s pharmacists over the phone. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins and supplements. Tria Health will assist you in identifying any possible drug interactions or savings opportunities!

Sources:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/herbal-supplements/art-20046714
  2. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/herb-drug
  3. https://www.stlukes-stl.com/health-content/medicine/33/000931.htm

Reduce Adverse Drug Reactions

Pills on Table
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Are you currently taking a prescription medication? Per the government’s National Health Survey, about 20 percent of adults are taking three or more drugs. While medications can turn once fatal diseases into manageable, chronic conditions, those taking five or more medications were nearly twice as likely to seek medical care than those taking one or two meds.1 It’s important to understand what medications you’re taking, and the steps you need to follow to reduce your risk of adverse drug reactions.

How do Adverse Drug Reactions Happen?1

There are three primary causes of dangerous prescription drug use:

  1. Hyper-specialized doctors: Many patients with chronic conditions have multiple physicians. While this can benefit the patient by providing them with specialized resources, the lack of communication between health care providers can sometimes lead to the prescribing of drugs that interact negatively.
  2. Prescription cascades: The risk of side effects comes with every medication. Prescription cascades occur when new medications are prescribed in an effort to treat the sides effects of other medications.
  3. Poor research: Unfortunately for older adults, drug trials are often focused on young adults. This can lead to a lack of information regarding the negative effects of individual drugs or interactions among multiple drugs.

Simple Steps to Avoid Adverse Drug Reactions

  • Talk with your doctor and pharmacist about any new medications. Make sure they know about any vitamins and supplements you are currently taking.
  • Follow all the dosing instructions listed on each of your medications.
  • Keep an updated medication list on hand for any of your medical appointments.
  • You can also use AARP’s online drug interaction checker.

Tria Health can help

If Tria Health is offered through your benefits plan, you have the option of receiving a one-on-one private consultation with one of Tria Health’s pharmacists over the phone. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins and supplements. Tria Health will assist you in identifying any possible adverse drug reactions or savings opportunities!

Source:

  1. https://lowninstitute.org/medication-overload-how-the-drive-to-prescribe-is-harming-older-americans/

World Asthma Day

World Asthma Day is an annual event organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma to improve asthma awareness and care around the world. World Asthma Day is held on the first Tuesday in May, in collaboration with health care groups and asthma educators throughout the world. Asthma impacts around 8.3% of Americans, which is close to 26.5 million people.1 This Tuesday, take the time to learn more about Asthma and how you can help raise awareness!

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. The coughing often occurs at night or early in the morning.2

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Asthma?

While these symptoms are very common for individuals with asthma, the best way to know for sure is to schedule an appointment with your doctor. They’re be able to perform a physical exam and possibly a lung function test.

Common signs and symptoms of asthma include:

  • Coughing: Coughing from asthma often is worse at night or early in the morning, making it hard to sleep.
  • Wheezing: Wheezing is a whistling or squeaky sound that occurs when you breathe.
  • Chest tightness: This may feel like something is squeezing or sitting on your chest.
  • Shortness of breath: Some people who have asthma say they can’t catch their breath, or they feel out of breath. You may feel like you can’t get air out of your lungs.

How can you participate in World Asthma Day?

  • Organize debates about local issues affecting asthma control—e.g., pollution, smoking, access to asthma care & medication
  • Organize a hike for people with asthma and their friends, led by a health care provider who can educate the group about    managing asthma in an outdoor environment.
  • Arrange school visits on or prior to World Asthma Day—educate children about asthma and offer on-the-spot peak flow meter    testing. These activities could be combined with plays, concerts, or poetry competitions highlighting the concept of asthma control.

Find more ideas here.

Tria Health and Asthma

Many patients decide to take medications in order to effectively manage their asthma. If Tria Health is offered through your benefits plan, you have the option of receiving a one-on-one, private consultation with one of Tria Health’s pharmacists over the phone. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins and supplements. If you’re interested in exploring medication treatments for asthma, Tria’s pharmacist will be able to provide you with recommendations.

Questions?

Call the Tria Health Help Desk: 1.888.799.8742

Sources:

  1. https://acaai.org/news/facts-statistics/asthma
  2. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/asthma

National Drug Take Back Day – April 27th

Disposing of medications safely can help protect your family from getting or using medications that are expired or out of date; prevent the illegal use of unused medications and minimize any potential negative impact on the environment. For this reason, the DEA is giving the public an opportunity to dispose of unwanted and/or expired prescription drugs. This is a FREE and anonymous service—take medications back, no questions asked!

Where do I go?

Visit the DEA’s website to find a collection site:
https://apps.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubdispsearch/spring/main?execution=e1s1

Why can’t I throw out my medications at home?

Unfortunately, there are a lot of harmful myths floating around regarding medication disposal. Many people will try to flush their medications down the toilet or crush their medicines before throwing them in the trash. Flushing can end up polluting our waters and crushing medicines can put trash handlers at risk of exposure if the drug were to encounter their skin or if they were to breathe in the dust. Medicine take back programs are the best way to dispose of unwanted medicine.

How can Tria Health Help?

As a member of Tria Health, if you have multiple medications and are afraid you’ll throw away the wrong medication, we can provide additional assistance in selecting the proper medications. Tria provides one-on-one consultations with a clinical pharmacist who assists you with your medication management.

Questions?

Call the Tria Health Help Desk at 1.888.799.8742