Prime Time Living - Page 8 - Add a pharmacist to your medical team

Prime Time Living
- Page 8
Add a pharmacist to your medical team
Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine. — Lord Byron

Get to know the person in the white coat behind the counter

By Margit B. Weisgal, Contributing Writer

Health United States Report 2016, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( ), notes that for U.S. citizens age 65 and older, over 40% take five or more prescription drugs. It also says, “As prescription drug use increases, however, so do concerns about polypharmacy. Polypharmacy – which is commonly defined as taking five or more drugs – increases the risk of drug interactions, adverse drug events, nonadherence and reduced functional capacity.”

In other words, we have access to more medications to solve our health problems, but they may not work well together and, as a result, because we could incur even more problems, we have to be even more vigilant. And, sometimes, our pills overlap and maybe we don’t need all of them. It’s what happened to Owen Clark. He’s one of those people that reads the folded up inserts, written in tiny type on tissue paper, that come with our medications, checking to see if there any potential problems. Clark found a contraindication – as in, “there may be a problem this pill if you already take that pill” – with a new drug his doctor prescribed. Now what?

Clark reached out to his Rite-Aid pharmacist, someone he’s seen for many years, but rarely talked with. “I may have a problem with this new drug,” Clark said. “Could you help me?” The pharmacist smiled, came from behind the counter, and they walked to the side of the store. It wasn’t as serious as Clark thought, but he was fortunate.

Another concern we should take note of is the number of supplements we ingest. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration ( ) can validate ingredients for safety and labeling, but they are not subjected to the same stringent testing that medications undergo.

That means, for you, that any claims a dietary supplement makes, such as “essential to bone health” or “may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease,” are couched in vagaries and have not been verified as effective to the same level as prescription drugs. What you may not read on the label, but it is required to be there on every bottle, is this text:

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

So, here you are, taking prescription drugs and vitamins and herbs and supplements and have no idea if, by taking this combination, there is potential for an adverse drug interaction, event, or a change in your ability to function normally.

What can you do to ensure the drugs you take work for you and not against you? Talk with a pharmacist.

“There’s been a generation shift,” says. Nicole Brandt, PharmD, M.B.A., BCPP, C.G.P., FASCP, professor of pharmacy practice and science and executive director, Peter Lamy Center on Drug Therapy and Aging at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. “Baby boomers are more skeptical and usually tend to ask more questions when prescribed medications.

Doctors also need to pay closer attention to what patients say about reactions. For instance, when a patient says, ‘I don’t feel right with this new medication,’ it shouldn’t be dismissed or ignored.”

As we age, more of us are suffering from comorbidities – having two conditions at the same time – which means taking more disease-modifying medications, and that leaves us vulnerable to potential problems. Geriatrician Dr. Jerry H. Gurwitz, chief of the division of geriatric medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, says, “Any new symptom in an older adult should be considered a drug side effect until proven otherwise.”

Brandt points out, “Even if the prescribing doctor is practicing evidence-based medicine, many guidelines don’t differentiate by age or include older adults. One

Pharmacist, continued on page 28