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National Education Campaign Launched to Educate Older Adults about the "MUSTS" of Safe Medicine Use

The National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE), a non-profit coalition of more than 100 organizations working to improve communication on the appropriate use of medicines, recently launched Medication Use Safety Training for Seniors (MUST for Seniors), a national education awareness campaign to promote safe and appropriate medicine use among America’s older adults.

Senior with medication container

Older adults are at increased risk of serious and often preventable medicine use-related problems

"Medicines are important therapeutic tools for living well in later life, but there are also risks, especially among older adults, who take more medicines than any other age group in the United States," said Ray Bullman, Executive Vice President, NCPIE. "The MUST for Seniors program encourages older adults and their caregivers to learn about the medicines they use, be active partners in their health care, and routinely talk about medicines with their healthcare providers."

Studies reveal that most older Americans live with at least one chronic condition (e.g., arthritis, heart disease, diabetes), take multiple medicines, consult several healthcare providers and use more than one pharmacy. The convergence of these factors, in addition to age-related changes that affect the way certain drugs work in the body, as well as important communication gaps about medicines between patients and their providers, sets the stage for potentially serious drug-related problems, including additional illness, hospitalization and even death.

MUST for Seniors is an interactive program designed to give older adults and caregivers the tools and information to avoid medication misuse, recognize and manage common side effects, and improve medicine use, knowledge, attitudes, and skills to avoid medication errors. Older adults and caregivers can attend a MUST for Seniors workshop in communities across the country or access the educational workshop materials online and download a variety of useful materials at "MUST for Seniors offers community service groups and health organizations a variety of educational resources to use throughout the year to inform and educate for safe medicine use," said Bullman.

A study in the September 10, 2007 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine finds the number of serious injuries and deaths reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from medicines more than doubled from 1998 to 2005, further underscoring the need for public education about safe medicine use. When taken as directed, medicines can treat or delay the onset or progression of many chronic conditions, and greatly improve patients’ quality of life—an increasingly salient issue among the nation’s aging baby boomers.

Quick Facts: Older Adults and Medicine Use

  • Older adults comprise 13 percent of the population, but account for 34 percent of all prescription medicine use and 30 percent of all over-the-counter (OTC) drug use.

  • Most older adults—4 out of 5—live with one or more chronic conditions.

  • Many take multiple medicines at the same time. A recent survey of 17,000 Medicare beneficiaries found that 2 out of 5 patients reported taking five or more prescription medicines.

  • Older adults are at increased risk of serious adverse drug events, including falls, depression, confusion, hallucinations and malnutrition, which are an important cause of illness, hospitalization and death among these patients.

  • Drug-related complications have been attributed to the use of multiple medicines and associated drug interactions, age-related changes, human error and poor medical management (e.g., incorrect medicines prescribed, inappropriate doses, lack of communication and monitoring).

For references or additional background information, download NCPIE’s Fact Sheet "Medicine Use and Older Adults," available at the MUST for Seniors web site.

Established in 1982, the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) is a diverse nonprofit coalition that works to stimulate and improve the communication of information about the appropriate use of prescription and OTC medicines. NCPIE’s more than 100 members include consumer organizations; patient advocacy groups; voluntary health agencies; health professional associations; health professional schools; health-related trade associations; prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical manufacturers; and local, state and federal government agencies.


For more Information about medication safety, see "Medication Safety for Seniors and Caregivers" in the March 2008 issue of Caring Right at Home.

To see what Right at Home is doing to help eliminate medication errors, learn about the innovative Accupax™ program in the August 2007 issue of Caring Right at Home.   

Right at Home is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those we serve. We fulfill that mission through a dedicated network of locally owned, franchised providers of in-home care and assistance services.


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