YONKERS, N.Y. — CVS Pharmacy, Walmart, Albertsons, Costco, Target and Sam’s Club are among the chains participating in National Check Your Meds Day, an initiative of Consumer Reports and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Consumer Reports said Wednesday that with Americans regularly taking more pills than ever, consumers are being asked to get a “medication checkup” with their doctor or pharmacist to help prevent drug errors and adverse interactions. To that end, the consumer advocacy group and HHS have designated Oct. 21 as National Check Your Meds Day.
The idea is for consumers, at least once a year, to take all of their medications — prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicine, vitamins and dietary supplements — to a pharmacist or physician for a “brown bag” review to check for potential harmful drug interactions and possibly eliminate unnecessary drugs.
To raise awareness of National Check Your Meds Day, Consumer Reports said it’s producing and distributing a public service announcement urging people to visit their pharmacists for a medication check.
Independent pharmacies also are supporting the initiative, and some pharmacies may have extra staff on hand for Oct. 21, according to Consumer Reports, which also is teaming up with the National Community Pharmacists Association for the event. Consumer Reports, too, is calling on consumers to ask their pharmacies if they’re participating. Pharmacies and others can take part in the day on Twitter using the hashtag #NationalCheckYourMedsDay.
“Much medication use is life-saving, without a doubt. But some drugs can potentially do more harm than good,” Lisa Gill, deputy editor of Consumer Reports, said in a statement. “Our concern is that inappropriate prescribing can lead to unnecessary risk, including trips to the emergency room. By launching National Check Your Meds Day, we hope to encourage consumers to talk with their health care providers about the meds and supplements they take, so they can ultimately lower their risk.”
Consumer Reports noted that its Best Buy Drugs program revealed in a special report, titled “Too Many Meds?”, that more than half of Americans now regularly take an average of four prescriptions. Many in that group also take OTC drugs, as well as vitamins and other dietary supplements.
The total number of prescriptions filled by all Americans jumped 85% from 2.4 billion prescriptions in 1997 to 4.5 billion in 2016, according to Consumer Reports.
“There are many root causes, including a ‘culture of prescribing.’ Perhaps most worrisome is prescribing for pre-disease stages of a condition, such as pre-osteoporosis or prediabetes, where the medications offer limited benefit for people. And we’ve seen a push to treat common problems like back pain, heartburn and insomnia with medication before trying effective, non-drug measures first,” Gill explained.
More medications calls for more caution, noted Michael Hochman, M.D., of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. “The risk of adverse events increases exponentially after someone is on four or more medications,” Hochman stated.
Nearly 1.3 million people went to U.S. emergency rooms due to adverse drug effects in 2014, and about 124,000 people died from those events, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. It was estimated that about half of those events could have been prevented with more appropriate medication use.