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Tips For Playing It Safe With Medicine

El Centro, California (NAPSI) - As we age, most of us come to depend on prescription drugs  to help us live healthier, longer lives. But the very medications that we  count on for better health could also land us in the hospital.

Drug mishaps  are especially common among older Americans, who generally take more  medications to treat chronic conditions. Fortunately, with a little bit of  caution, many incidents can be prevented.

Matthew Gibbs, Pharm. D., chief pharmacy executive for pharmacy services  at WellPoint, one of the nation’s largest insurers, which serves  hundreds of thousands of Medicare members through its affiliated Medicare  Advantage, Prescription Drug and Medicare Supplement Plans, offers the  following tips for playing it safe with prescription drugs.

Know Your Drugs. Know everything  you can about each drug you take, including its name, color, shape, dosage,  side effects, what it treats, when and how to take it, and how to store it.  Maintain a checklist that you can carry with you on a trip or in an  emergency. If you don’t understand something, ask your doctor or  pharmacist. Sometimes, it is helpful to take a friend to the doctor so you  don’t miss anything. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, such as  those offered through WellPoint’s affiliates, your insurer may have a  pharmacist review your drugs with you at no extra cost.

Beware of Interactions.  Interactions are most likely to occur after your drugs have changed,  following a doctor appointment or hospital visit. When you’re  prescribed a new drug, make sure the doctor knows about your existing  medications, including over-the-counter supplements, which also can cause  interactions. Some drugs may affect your balance, so keep your home clear of  potential fall hazards. Be aware that certain foods may cause adverse  reactions. If you think you’re having a bad interaction, call the  doctor immediately.

Follow Instructions. Taking  different medicines isn’t easy. Establish a routine by taking your  medication at the same time every day. An inexpensive pillbox may help you  stay organized. Never increase, decrease or stop a dosage without talking to  your doctor. If swallowing is difficult, ask your doctor or pharmacist for a  liquid alternative or to crush your tablets (if allowable, but don’t do  it yourself).

Get Help If You Need It. Please  don’t risk your health because of concerns about cost. Medicare  Prescription Drug Plans cover the cost of most drugs, including low-cost  generic options, although premiums may apply. Additionally, there are a  number of programs to help with prescription drug costs. Social Security, for  example, may offer “extra help,” depending on your income.  Contact your local office for details. And WellPoint helps sponsor the  National Council on Aging’s BenefitsCheckUp, which connects people with help for  medicine, rent, utilities and meals. For details, visit www.benefitscheckup.org/wellpoint.

Finally, never take someone else’s medicine for any reason.

“Your doctor has prescribed your medicine for a reason,” Gibbs  said. “By working closely with your physician and your pharmacist,  taking the correct dosage at the right time, and educating yourself about  possible side effects, you should be able to get that benefit while heading  off any problems.”

WellPoint affiliates offer Medicare Prescription Drug Plans in all 50  states. In many states, plans are sold under the UniCare  brand.