Insights on medication safety from Logan, Humana Pharmacy pharmacist
Humana Pharmacy® clinical pharmacist Logan Fox helps patients like you manage the challenges of taking multiple medications. As an expert in helping customers manage their medication, Logan shares information below to help you identify which common medications are safe or risky to take at the same time and which ones to avoid.
And now, let’s hear from Logan:
Welcome to fall! As the days get cooler and the leaves begin to change color, I love nothing more than sitting outside with a warm cup of coffee, often thinking about conversations I had with patients the previous day, or trying to figure how I can help to make their lives better moving forward. As a clinical pharmacist with Humana, I love the opportunity to talk with each of you about any issues you might be having with your medications that you never even thought to bring up with your doctor!
Here are some questions to consider:
Which common medications may be dangerous for me?
Some important questions that don’t get asked enough are, “Are my same medications still safe for me as I get older? What if I’ve taken them for years without any trouble?” I often find my patients take high-risk medications easily available to buy over-the-counter (OTC), or may be something your doctor prescribed for you for short- or long-term use. Unfortunately, many of these medicines can increase your chance of falling or cause other side effects, and this can dramatically impact your quality of life! For example, some meds may have side effects like dizziness, drowsiness and muscle weakness that could increase your risk of falling. Falls can be painful for almost anyone. But as we age, they also increase the risk for more serious issues, like broken bones.
Medicare offers a list of medications you can refer to for what’s okay to take. And here are some safer medication alternatives for older adult patients. I hope you’ll feel more prepared to discuss with your doctor whether your prescription medicines are the best options going forward.
How are antihistamines dangerous?
One of the largest groups of medications patients often take for years is called “antihistamines.” You may take them for many different reasons. Many are available as a prescription or OTC to treat allergies or itching: chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton®), diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) and hydroxyzine (Vistaril®/Atarax®). You may also take them to sleep: diphenhydramine (ZzzQuilTM) or doxylamine (Unisom®). Other times, these medicines (bromfeniramine (Bromfed DM®) and (promethazine (Phenergan®)) treat coughing or nausea. While these medications may improve your cough or sleep, they can also cause side effects. If you experience drowsiness, muscle weakness and blood pressure changes from these medications, your risk of falling or injury increases. You may also have dry mouth, constipation or difficulty urinating.
How are sleep medications risky for my health?
While antihistamines are often used for sleep, other sleep medicines are also considered high risk. Common sleep medications with this warning include eszopiclone (Lunesta®), zaleplon (Sonata®) and zolpidem (Ambien®). Some patients take these drugs for years with no issues, then wake up one day without remembering how they got there! For example, if your meds cause you to sleepwalk, this can be dangerous since it increases the chance you’ll fall. Some people even eat, cook on a gas stove or drive while sleeping! Remember, just because you haven’t had this side effect doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. It’s helpful to talk with your doctor before this happens.
What other medications may increase my risk for falls or fractures?
Let’s touch on medicines that may be riskier for patients over 65 years old to take. Glyburide (Diabeta®) is a diabetes drug that increases your risk of having very low blood sugars. Antidepressants like amitriptyline (Elavil®), doxepin (Silenor®) and paroxetine (Paxil®) may treat anything from depression and anxiety to pain. And muscle relaxers like cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril®) and methocarbamol (Robaxin®) help people with painful muscle spasms. However, these increase your risk for falls and other side effects. You can usually find safer alternatives.
What should I do if I take one of these medications?
If unsure which medicines might be risky for you to continue, ask your pharmacist or doctor. Here’s how you can also reduce your risk of falling:
- Cut back on alcohol
- Remove rugs from your walk areas
- Wear shoes without loose laces and with a proper grip
- Exercise daily
- Regularly check your vision
Want to make these habits and appointments affordable and rewarding? Humana offers programs—like Silver Sneakers® for Medicare members and Go365®—designed for all members. They’re included at no additional cost for most Humana Medicare Advantage members.
Humana Pharmacy is here for you
Humana Pharmacy has pharmacists who can discuss your medications with you. Call 800-379-0092 (TTY: 711), Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 11 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., Eastern time.
You can also learn more about high-risk medicines and how aging may affect your treatment.
This material is provided for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult your doctor to determine what is right for you.
Go365 is not an insurance product and is not available with all Humana health plans. This is a general description of services which are subject to change. Please refer to Customer Support for more information.