Health Net is Working to Increase Awareness about Prescribing Potentially Harmful Medications for the Elderly

Business Wire

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--

In recognition of Talk About Prescriptions Month, which kicked off Oct. 1, Health Net, Inc. (HNT) is working to increase awareness of medication safety, particularly regarding drugs with a high risk of causing adverse events in the elderly.

“A wide range of medications can cause serious side effects in our elderly population, which can lead to outcomes such as confusion, falls and even death,” said Virginia White, Pharm.D., chief clinical officer, Health Net Pharmaceutical Services. “According to a 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, more than 40 percent of those 65 and older take five or more medications. And each year more than a third of them experience a drug side effect or other negative outcome.”

The elderly are prone to adverse drug events for several reasons. “Older adults are at a greater risk because they likely have multiple chronic health issues requiring numerous prescription and over-the-counter medications to manage that may not interact well together,” White said. “Some medications also may affect people differently as they age, which makes seniors more vulnerable to negative outcomes. For these people, it is important that their prescribers, pharmacists and health insurance companies make a concerted effort to help manage their drug therapy.”

From a price perspective, the National Council on Patient Information and Education – which has sponsored Talk About Prescriptions Month for 27 years – reports that the total cost of drug-related morbidity and mortality was estimated at more than $177 billion annually in 2000.

However, White pointed out, “Based on estimates from studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the American Journal of Medicine, 27 percent of adverse drug events that occur in primary care settings and 42 percent of events in long-term care facilities are preventable.”

Prevention

Guided by the goal of helping elderly patients avoid taking potentially inappropriate medications, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) in March 2012 updated its Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults, or Beers List, which Health Net uses when investigating whether there are medications or medication combinations that can cause adverse drug events in older adults.

Included among these potentially harmful medications in the Beers List are:

  • antidiabetic sulfonylureas – chlorpropamide, glyburide;
  • benzodiazepines – diazepam, flurazepam;
  • nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics – zolpidem, zaleplon, eszopiclone;
  • estrogen oral products – with or without progestins;
  • tricyclic antidepressants – amitriptyline, doxepin;
  • first-generation antihistamines – diphenhydramine, hydroxyzine, promethazine;
  • gastrointestinal antispasmodics – dicyclomine, hyoscyamine, propantheline;
  • nitrofurantoin; and
  • skeletal muscle relaxants – carisoprodol, cyclobenzaprine, methocarbamol, orphenadrine.

“There are alternatives to these medications,” said White, “so if senior adults are concerned about the number or type of medications they are taking, they should contact their doctor or pharmacist immediately to talk about their choices.”

The AGS has published a clinical tool based on the Beers List in a printable, pocket-card form. To view this tool, go to www.americangeriatrics.org/files/documents/beers/PrintableBeersPocketCard.pdf. For additional information regarding Talk About Prescriptions Month, visit www.talkaboutrx.org.

Medical Advice Disclaimer

The information provided is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for professional medical care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other health provider for any questions you may have regarding your medical condition and follow your health care provider’s instructions.

About Health Net

Health Net, Inc. is a publicly traded managed care organization that delivers managed health care services through health plans and government-sponsored managed care plans. Its mission is to help people be healthy, secure and comfortable. Health Net provides and administers health benefits to approximately 5.4 million individuals across the country through group, individual, Medicare (including the Medicare prescription drug benefit commonly referred to as “Part D”), Medicaid, Department of Defense, including TRICARE, and Veterans Affairs programs. Through its subsidiaries, Health Net also offers behavioral health, substance abuse and employee assistance programs, managed health care products related to prescription drugs, managed health care product coordination for multi-region employers, and administrative services for medical groups and self-funded benefits programs. For more information on Health Net, Inc., please visit Health Net’s website at www.healthnet.com.

This release contains links to other sites that are not owned or controlled by Health Net. Please be aware that Health Net is not responsible for the contents linked or referred to from this release. Links to other websites are provided for the user’s convenience. Health Net does not express an opinion on the content or the properties of such linked websites and disclaims any liability in connection therewith.

Contact:
Health Net, Inc.
Lori Rieger
(602) 794-1415
lori.rieger@healthnet.com
www.twitter.com/hnlori

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