Whether you’re settling into your sixties or heading into your ninth decade, you should be extra careful when taking prescription and over-the-counter medicines. And if you’re caring for older loved ones, you should help them stay safe.
The older you get, the more likely you are to use additional medicines, which can increase the chance of harmful drug interactions.
And, as we age, body changes can affect the way medicines are absorbed, leading to potential complications. For instance, your liver and kidneys may not work as well, which affects how a drug breaks down and leaves your body. And changes in your digestive system can affect how fast drugs get to your bloodstream.
“There is no question that physiology changes as we age. Many chronic medical conditions don’t even appear until our later years,” explains RADM (Ret.) Sandra L. Kweder, M.D., F.A.C.P., deputy director of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of New Drugs. “It’s not that people are falling to pieces; some changes are just part of the normal aging process.”
Read on for four important tips.
Take Medicine as Prescribed
Take your medicine regularly and according to your health care provider’s instructions. Don’t skip doses or stop taking medication without first consulting with your provider. (This holds true even if you’re feeling better or if you think the medicine isn’t working.)
“Medication can’t work unless you take it,” Kweder says. “For instance, medications that treat chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes typically only work when taken regularly and as directed. You have to take them continuously to maintain control over your condition.”
Dosing for medications is based on clinical trials, which FDA reviews. “Every medicine is really different and is dosed according to what’s been tested,” says Kweder, which is one reason why you shouldn’t select a dose yourself.
If you’re having bothersome side effects or have other questions, talk to your health care provider.
Keep a Medication List
Write down what you’re taking and keep the list with you. Consider giving a copy to a friend or loved one that you trust—an important step especially in case of emergency and when you’re traveling.
Record the medicine’s brand name, if applicable, and generic name. Also write down how often and what dosage you take. (For instance, one pill daily, 300 mg.)
Finally, note when you take each drug. “You should know your medicines better than the doctor does,” says Kweder.
Be Aware of Potential Interactions
Remember, as you age, you’re at higher risk for drug interactions.
Interactions can occur when:
- One drug affects how another drug works;
- A medical condition you have makes a certain drug potentially harmful;
- A food or non-alcoholic drink reacts with a drug;
- A medicine interacts with an alcoholic drink.
Your task? Learn which interactions are possible. You can do this by carefully reading drug facts labels on over-the-counter drugs and the information that comes with your prescription medications, and by reviewing any special instructions with your health care provider. For instance nitroglycerin, which treats angina (chest pain related to heart disease), should not be taken with many erectile dysfunction drugs, including Viagra and Cialis, because serious interactions can occur. And some drugs should not be taken with alcohol, as symptoms such as loss of coordination and memory loss can result.
If you’re seeing multiple health care providers, tell each one about all of your medications and supplements. You also can ask your pharmacist about potential interactions.
Review Medications with Your Health Care Provider
Schedule at least one annual review of your medications with your health care provider to confirm which medications are still necessary and which you can stop taking (if any).
If a certain medication seems out of your budget, ask your health care provider whether there is a cheaper, and still effective, alternative.
This review can help you avoid interactions and can lessen costs. Sometimes, especially if you’re seeing multiple providers, certain questions can fall through the cracks, says Kweder. But, she says, there is no such thing as a stupid question about medicine.
“As a society, we have become reliant on pharmaceuticals to help us attain a longer and higher-quality life. It’s a wonderful success of Western medicine,” she adds. “The goal should be for each of us to access that benefit but respect that medicines are serious business. To get the most out of them, you should take them with great care and according to directions.”
This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.
Get Expert Advice Before Giving Medicine to Your Baby
Certain medications may not be appropriate for your baby, so you should ask your health care provider before giving your child any medication, says Snyder. If he or she has recommended a medicine for your infant, ask questions to be sure you use the right dose.
Store Medications Safely
Store any medicines that you or your baby may take out of reach. “You want to keep medications out of reach of your child,” says Snyder, who notes that babies can start to crawl as early as 5 to 6 months. “But even if babies are under the age where you’d expect them to be able to get to your medication, get into the habit of putting medication out of their reach,” she advises.
Also read all storage instructions. “For instance, some antibiotics need to be kept in the refrigerator,” Snyder says. “So you want to make sure you’re storing it according to the instructions.” If you have questions about how to safely store a medicine, contact your pharmacist or other health care provider.
Give Medications Properly
Use the appropriate dosing device—such as an oral syringe, not a regular kitchen spoon—to give the recommended amount of medicine. Some products are packaged with these devices, but devices are also available for purchase over the counter. “If your baby is prescribed a teaspoon of medicine, make sure you give a teaspoon and not a tablespoon,” Snyder adds. And talk to your baby’s pharmacist or other health care provider if you have questions.
If You Take Medication, Seek Breastfeeding Advice
“If you are taking medications, it’s important to ask your health care provider whether it’s okay to breastfeed,” says Leyla Sahin, M.D., an obstetrician with FDA’s Pediatric and Maternal Health Staff. You should ask about any prescription or over-the-counter products, including supplements. Stopping a medication can be dangerous for some women with chronic health problems, Sahin notes, but some medications can pass through the breast milk and may not be safe for your baby. So check in with your health care provider if you are breastfeeding, or plan to breastfeed, and you are taking any medication.
Take Care of Yourself
You may feel like you’re devoting most waking (and sleeping) hours to your baby, but try to sneak in time for yourself. Not getting enough rest can be an issue if you have a new baby. “Sleep when the baby sleeps and take naps during the day,” Sahin recommends. “If you’re a new mom feeling consistently very sad, it could be a sign of postpartum depression,” she adds, so you should talk to your health care provider to get help if needed.
Also it’s important to schedule and keep your six-week postpartum appointment with your health care provider, Sahin says.
Remember, your first year of motherhood may not be perfect but you can adjust to this new stage. Find more helpful advice from FDA’s Office of Women’s Health.
“Keep in mind that being a new mom is a transition period that may be stressful,” Sahin adds. “But take the time to celebrate being a new mom.”
Experts from the medical fraternity are looking forward to the new government to adopt a systematic approach while drafting its health policy in order to bring in a transformation in the healthcare delivery in the country. Top think tanks from the healthcare and medical profession have submitted a white paper to the health ministry highlighting the pro active measures that needed to be taken up by the government to bring about radical changes in all aspects of healthcare delivery.
Experts point out that there is an urgent need to concentrate on developing fundamental part of the healthcare delivery system, right from the grass roots level, due to the huge lacunae prevalent now. Many strongly feel that the health care in India is highly fragmented to suit the needs and convenience of the rich rather than the poor.
According to professor Gautam Sen, ex first board of governors MCI who co-authored the white paper along with other experts, poor health outcomes in the country have been due to ineffective government intervention, manpower issues, different systems of medicine, uneven distribution and skewed mix of healthcare professionals among many other issues. The government had even failed to tackle the public health issues by not concentrating on public expectations or changing epidemiology, while ignoring health expenditure.
He stressed, “In spite of India being famous as a favourite medical tourism destination and being home to many multi specialty hospitals, we fair very poorly when it comes to addressing the needs of the general population. This is because, we do not have a hierarchical approach to health care needs, wherein primary care, which focuses on preventive healthcare is always ignored or given least importance in the great schemes of things, compared to secondary or tertiary care. Our representation basically charts out on these points which calls upon the need to ‘change the mind set’ to grapple our current issues. The government needs to understand that the times have changed so should the approach.”
Sen who is also the president of Health Care International and Association For Trauma Care of India further added that they have recommended to the government to to urgently bring in reforms in regulatory bodies, with radical reforms in accreditation process of educational and training institutions to ensure quality parameters. He insisted that the reforms in medical education should be done on need based curriculum, continuing professional education, continuing professional development, revalidation etc.
Experts feel that special focus should also be given on new healthcare workforce training that will focus on training of primary care physician (specialty grade), re-training Ayush doctors with assimilation in main stream, training of nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, development of paramedic cadre, up-gradation of skills of existing healthcare workforce etc.
Among the other suggestions enlisted in the white paper, focus is given on healthcare workforce planning so as to bring all together through a systematic approach, promote evidence-based policy formulation and public health intervention wherein states should be at the centre of the new strategic approach to health system reform.
The planet may be headed toward a “post-antibiotic era” in which common infections once easily controlled by antimicrobial medicines are lethal, the World Health Organization reported Wednesday in its first look at antibiotic resistance that has developed in all parts of the world.
“The problem is so serious that it threatens the achievements of modern medicine,” the organization said, adding that “a very real possibility for the 21st century” is a time when standard treatments no longer work, the chances of death from infection rise and the risk of disease spreading to others will increase.
“Effective antibiotics have been one of the pillars allowing us to live longer, live healthier and benefit from modern medicine,” Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s assistant director-general for health security, said in a news release. “Unless we take significant actions to improve efforts to prevent infections and also change how we produce, prescribe and use antibiotics, the world will lose more and more of these global public health goods and the implications will be devastating.”
Such alarm in the health-care community and elsewhere about resistance to antibiotics is not new. In September, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of “potentially catastrophic consequences” of drug-resistant microorganisms, saying they now kill an estimated 23,000 people in this country every year, and other public health groups have been clamoring about them for years.
But WHO reported that “very high rates of resistance” have been observed around the world to common bacteria that cause urinary tract, wound and bloodstream infections, as well as pneumonia. Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis is a growing and under-reported concern, and rising resistance to anti-HIV drugs has been detected. At the same time, surveillance of the growing threat by officials worldwide is not coordinated.
In a region-by-region breakdown, WHO reported that in some settings in the Americas, up to 90 percent of Staphylococcus aureus infections are resistant to methicillin, a situation that has come to be abbreviated as MRSA. The bacteria that causes pneumonia is now less susceptible to penicillin throughout the world and exceeds 50 percent of cases in some places. In 36 countries, the last-resort treatment for gonorrhea is proving less effective.
Source: Arab News