A medication is considered high-risk for the geriatric population when it causes side effects, even when the medication is used as prescribed. High-risk medications are also medications that cause dangerous side effects, even death if used incorrectly.
Is there a list of high-risk medications?
Actually, there is a list!
Called the Beers List, its proper title is The Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults. This guideline is for health professionals, including your pharmacist, to use when prescribing or preparing medication for geriatric patients. It is also a list that consumers can use. The list, which gets regular updates, includes both prescription and over-the-counter medications that may be dangerous for senior citizens.
How can my pharmacist help?
Getting to know your pharmacist is helpful to you both. Your pharmacist should be familiar with high-risk medications and their possible side effects. You should feel comfortable asking your pharmacist about your medications and also tell them of any side effects you might experience. Similarly, when filling prescription medications, your pharmacist should warn you about unusual side effects.
Where can I find the list?
Try these resources:
Please note that the Beers List notes medications by their generic names. If you are researching your medications, and they have brand names, you can ask your pharmacist to give you the generic name. Or you can simply ask your pharmacist if your medications are on the list.
I found my medication on the Beers list. Now what?
If you find one or more of your medications on the Beers List, or if think that you are having a side effect from a medication, please talk to your pharmacist. Your pharmacist can look at your prescribed medications and confirm your usage as well as the side effects. You can also ask your healthcare professional to prescribe an alternative medication that won’t have the side effects.
Don’t ignore side effects of medications. Your pharmacist can be a support and advocate for you.