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Seniors' health alert: Double-checking Grandma's prescriptions

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USA Today is reporting on a new program known as “medication therapy management,” which helps seniors keep track of their prescriptions. The service is provided by a non-profit group called Senior PharmAssist, which helps seniors take their medications correctly and avoid harmful side effects.

The article provides the example of 82-year-old Irene Mooney, who has suffered four heart attacks. After developing bruises all over her body and complaining of severe fatigue, a pharmacist discovered that the cause was one of the medications prescribed to Mooney for her heart condition.

The pharmacist reviewed Mooney’s 13 prescriptions and contacted her doctor to have the dosage of one medication cut and have another replaced. Since then Mooney’s symptoms have subsided and she reports feeling much better.

The medication management assistance will be available to nearly seven million seniors and disabled Americans enrolled in Medicare drug plans. New Medicare rules which took effect in January require private insurers offering drug coverage to automatically enroll members who take $3,000 or more in prescriptions annually, have several different prescriptions or suffer chronic health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension or heart disease.

The program requires an annual medication review and quarterly reassessments. Pharmacists reviewing a patient’s prescriptions must do so in person, over the phone or via the Internet and provide the patient with a written summary. Patients may opt out of the program at any time.