Ann Arbor, MI—
Pharmacists have a daunting task ahead of them, with a new poll indicating that the vast majority of patients aged 50 years and older have never had a medication review.

That is especially significant since two-thirds of older adults rely on at least two prescription drugs, and more than half take two or more nonprescription drugs or supplements, according to a report from the University of Michigan’s (U-M) Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation (IHPI). Furthermore, 20% are on five or more prescription drugs, with some of them having adverse interaction.

Yet, the National Poll on Healthy Aging, conducted by U-M and supported by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and Michigan Medicine, indicates that more than 75% of them haven’t had a pharmacist review their medications.

Even with Medicare Part D plans, which offer free in-depth medication reviews for enrollees who meet their eligibility criteria, participation is usually is low. The survey points out that 85% of Medicare Part D enrollees who had not had a medication review didn’t even know they could be eligible for one. At the same time, with some non-Medicare plans also covering reviews, 86% of all older adult beneficiaries without a medication review said they weren’t aware that it could be covered.

The National Poll on Health Aging gathered responses from a national sample of more than 2,000 adults aged 50 to 80 years.

The poll team worked with two faculty members of the U-M College of Pharmacy who have studied the issue of multiple medication use, and the policies and practices aimed at improving use and reducing the risky side effects they can cause.

“These results show the importance of continuing efforts by physicians, pharmacists, other health care providers, insurers and policymakers to help older adults understand the importance of medication reviews,” says Antoinette B. Coe, PharmD, PhD, an assistant professor of clinical pharmacy who helped with the polling. 

Karen B. Farris, PhD, MPA, professor of clinical pharmacy, who also was an advisor, added,  “Since older adults with multiple chronic illnesses and medications, high medication costs and Part D Medicare coverage may qualify for a covered medication review, and their health plans are graded publicly on how many qualified participants receive a review, our finding that so many are unaware of the option is surprising.” 

Both Coe and Farris emphasized that older adults at the highest risk of drug interactions and that those on five or more prescription medications were more likely to have had a comprehensive medication review, although there still is room for improvement.

When the poll queried older adults on multiple medications as to whether they be interested in going over them with a pharmacist, more than a third said they would.

The poll determined that the likelihood for a poll respondent to take multiple prescription and OTC medications increased with age. Nearly a third of respondents aged 65 years and older reporting taking multiple medications.

In addition, 15% of those in the older cohort said they take five or OTC medications, vitamins, and supplements, compared with 9% of those in their 50s and early 60s, according to the report.

The National Poll on Healthy Aging results are based on responses from a nationally representative sample of 2,048 adults aged 50 to 80 years who answered a wide range of questions online. Questions were written, and data interpreted and compiled, by the IHPI team. Laptops and Internet access were provided to poll respondents who did not already have them.

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