Itâs a brutal irony that the very prescription drugs you need to stay healthy can sometimes be exceedingly dangerous. Because so many of todayâs prescription drugs are so powerful, getting the wrong drug can have drastic results. Prescription drug errors are actually on the riseâdespite programs meant to reduce them.
A big part of the problem is the prescribing process. While itâs true that patients often make mistakes in the amounts and times they take their medication, doctors and other healthcare providers can also make mistakes when they dish out medications to patients. This is especially so when it comes to seniors, who are often over- (or under-) prescribed medications for any number of health conditions.
This problem has become large enough that itâs been given a name: âPotentially Inappropriate Prescribing,â or PIP. PIP is as prevalent as it is in part because many seniors suffer from multiple conditions at one time, which often means multiple medications. The possibility for error increases exponentially as different health conditions are treated with different drugs at the same time.
A systemânamed âSTOPP/STARTââwas subsequently developed to help identify prescribing errors. Made up of two programs that are screening tools for inappropriate prescribing detection in the elderly, STOPP/START was intended to reduce prescription errors. A research team recently evaluated the performance of STOPP/START to determine if itâs actually helping.
The study aimed to assess whether or not the application of STOPP/START by pharmacists would reduce the level of PIP in elderly patients residing in a nursing home.
Researchers identified the number of potentially inappropriate medicines (PIMs) using the STOPP/START criteria. Hereâs what they found:
— Of the total drugs prescribed to elderly people, 30.4% were potentially inappropriate
— 94.7% of patients were prescribed at least one PIM
— There was a poor response rate to clinical pharmacistsâ recommendations from doctors
— 77% of instances of PIP remained, even after implementing STOPP/START
The three most consistently reported prescribing errors were wrong time, omission, and wrong dosage.
Talk to your doctor, and be aware of the guidelines for the medication youâre taking. Medication needs to be taken at the right time, and for the correct length of time. You also need to work with your doctor to make sure youâre getting the medication you need during a health crisis. As for dosageâcheck the medicationâs label when you bring it home from the pharmacist. If anything seems out of place, or if youâre unsure, contact your doctor or the pharmacy for verification. The same holds true for side effectsâcontact a healthcare professional if a medication causes unusual symptoms.
For advice on how to develop a good relationship with your doctorâanother key component of getting quality health care in times of illnessâread the article How to Make a Good Impression on Your Doctor.
Sources for Today’s Articles:
The Three Most Commonâ and Potentially HarmfulâPrescription Drug Errors
Di Mario, M., et al., âInappropriate Prescribing in the Elderlyâan Audit of Elderly Patients in Long Term Care Facilities,â Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. July 2012; 21(7): 788-798.