As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been writing a letter that invites my company’s Part D plan members to participate in Medicare’s Medication Therapy Management (MTM) program. The main feature of the Medicare MTM program is an annual comprehensive medication review, which includes a review of all medications, vitamins, and supplements with a pharmacist; a written summary and medication action plan to share with doctors; and a personal medication list.
The letter has been written and approved, but I still have my doubts that it is going to convince people to take advantage of this free program. For some reason—well, many reasons—seniors who take a lot of medications just don’t think they need an annual medication review, even if their health and safety is at risk.
Aging and multiple medications increase your health risks
But here’s the hard truth, plain and simple: If you take multiple medications, your chances of ending up in the hospital because of dangerous side effects or a harmful drug interaction are pretty high. To make matters worse, aging increases your risk for medication side effects.
If you take multiple medications, you’re not alone
The average older American uses 4-5 prescription drugs and 2 over-the-counter medications. The average nursing home resident uses at least 7-8 prescription drugs. Here are a few other facts to consider:
• The more medications you take, the more chance there is for those drugs to interact negatively with each other — or with vitamins, supplements, and even certain foods.
• You may think the symptoms of such harmful interactions are normal, such as an upset stomach or feeling tired. Or you may not notice any symptoms at all.
• If you are taking multiple drugs, there also is a greater risk of forgetting to take medications, taking them at the wrong time, or taking too much or too little.
• The more drugs you take, the more likely at least one of those drugs is not necessary.
The MTM comprehensive medication review is just what the doctor ordered
Let’s face it. It’s not always easy to keep track of your drugs or know how to use them safely. That’s why the Institute of Medicine encourages people to participate actively in the healthcare process to prevent medication-related problems. One of the things that doctors suggest is a medication review with a healthcare provider at least once a year.
So what are you waiting for?
I hope I have encouraged at least a few seniors to participate in their Medicare prescription drug plan’s MTM program. And I hope you say “yes” if your plan invites you to have a comprehensive medication review with a pharmacist. Your health and safety depend on it.