pill dispenser

Every day, 750 older Americans are hospitalized due to serious side effects from one or more medications. The odds of experiencing a serious adverse reaction to a medication increases 7 to 10 percent with each additional drug—yet today, more than 40 percent of older Americans regularly take 5 or more prescription drugs, and nearly 20 percent take more than 10 medications. When over-the-counter meds are included, a full two-thirds of older adults take 5 or more medications. If current trends continue, the Lown Institute predicts, over the next decade there will be more than 4.5 million hospitalizations of older adults for serious side effects of medications.¹

Eliminating Medication Overload: A National Action Plan was recently developed by the Lown Institute. The plan was developed by a group of 22 experts in medication use, including patient advocates, physicians, nurses, pharmacists and researchers from the U.S. and Canada. In addition to sounding the alarm on what it terms ‘America’s harmful culture of prescribing,’ the Action Plan call for educating and training health professionals on adverse reactions stemming from the interaction of multiple medicines. The plan also advocates for improved coordination and medication review.

The Lown Institute’s Action Plan: Eliminating Medication Overload focuses on these high-level action areas:

  1. Implement prescription checkups: Patients using multiple medications need regular prescription checkups.
  2. Raise awareness among clinicians, policymakers and the public: The American healthcare system and the public have been lulled into thinking there is a “pill for every ill.”
  3. Improve information at the point of care: Healthcare providers do not have clear, accurate, up-to-date information on the harms and benefits of medications when making prescribing decisions. Improving clinical guidelines and electronic health records are two essential actions.
  4. Educate and train health professionals to reduce medication overload: In professional schools and continuing education, curricula must be adapted to an older population, with greater emphasis on the potential harm of medication for older adults.

Read more and access prior reports on prescribing patterns and medication harm.

Carefully monitoring provider and patient prescription patterns, along with recommending alternative pain management methods and addiction treatment, can impact this epidemic and save lives. As a healthcare community, we can address and prevent misuse or abuse by collaborating to promote awareness, improved prescribing practices and evaluate impact. Join the Great Plains Quality Care Coalition to get involved and learn more. Better together. 

Source: January 2020 Lown Institute Action Plan: Eliminating Medication Overload: A National Action Plan