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Tuesday, September 9, 2003 Contact: AoA Press Office
(202) 401-4541

The U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA) Partners with the National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, Inc. (NCBA), the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) to Educate Area Seniors About Safe Use of Medications

Event is Part of HHS’ Second Annual “Take A Loved One to the Doctor Day” Initiative

Josefina G. Carbonell, Assistant Secretary for Aging in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and local pharmacists addressed Washington, D.C. area seniors today to increase awareness about the importance of safe and effective medication management and other prevention messages.

As many as one in five older Americans who live independently use prescription medicines that are considered potentially inappropriate. In order to ensure that messages about the safe use of prescription medicines reach at-risk seniors, AoA partnered with the National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, Inc. (NCBA), the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) and its member organizations to provide an overview on medication management, followed by an opportunity for older residents to talk to pharmacists in smaller settings about the safe use of medicines

AoA’s effort to inform local seniors about safe and effective use of medicines is part of “Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day” - a national HHS campaign that aims to close the health gap between the health of communities of color and the general population. People can take charge of their health, and participating in “Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day” can be a positive first step. HHS and AoA are emphasizing the importance of prevention activities through its second annual “Take Your Loved One to the Doctor Day”, officially recognized as September 16 but emphasized throughout the year. HHS recommends regular visits to the doctor, dentist, and pharmacist in order to ensure healthy living and healthy aging for all Americans, especially those who are disadvantaged.

Medication management and drug therapy among older adults is an important component of health promotion and disease prevention for older adults; yet, it’s becoming a growing issue due to the increasing availability of improved and stronger medicines. This coincides at a time when Americans over the age of 65 years of age consume one-third of all prescriptions in the U.S. and purchase 40 percent of all over-the-counter medications.

Every medicine has the potential to cause an undesired or adverse reaction. Medication errors can occur when a patient receives the wrong medicine, takes an incorrect dose, takes a medicine at the wrong time, or inappropriately combines prescription, non-prescription, and/or other medicines, food, or beverages. More than 1.9 million medication errors occurred among Medicare patients from 1999-2000 and more than one-fourth of the errors were preventable, according to an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)-supported study.

Complicating the issue is the reality that many older people are self-medicating. There’s an increasing availability of various types of over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and minerals, herbal and dietary supplements. This is potentially dangerous because over-the-counter drugs can have the same adverse drug reactions as with prescription medicines. For example, aspirin should not be taken with warfarin (Coumadin). Gingko bilboa should not be taken with aspirin, acetaminophen, warfarin, or thiazide diuretics because it may increase blood pressure and the risk of bleeding.

“Some groups of older persons are particularly vulnerable to poor health outcomes because they are exposed to both socioeconomic and age-related physiological stress factors that interact to increase their risk,” said Assistant Secretary Carbonell. “We hope that by focusing on taking this message to underserved communities, it will improve their knowledge about how to take medicines safely and that it will remind them to make sure that their doctors know about all of the medicines they are taking – both prescribed and over-the-counter,” she continued.

NCPIE-affiliated members that provided pharmacists and speakers include the American Pharmacists Association; National Association of Chain Drug Stores; National Community Pharmacists Association; The Peter Lamy Center; and the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.

To help people avoid medication errors, AHRQ and NCPIE have developed Your Medicine: Play It Safe, a 12-page brochure designed to help patients use their medications safely and effectively. It is available in English and Spanish and includes a detachable, pocket-sized medicine record form that can be personalized. The brochure can be downloaded from the Web at, or printed copies can be obtained by calling 1-800-358-9295.