SafeMedService.org & Other Tools for Ensuring Safe Medication Use

SafeMedService.org & Other Tools for Ensuring Safe Medication Use

While medications may help millions of Americans manage chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, they also present significant risks. Medication errors kill approximately 34 Americans in their homes each day. These errors include taking medications together that have harmful interactions, not taking medications at the right times, forgetting to take medications altogether, not knowing the names of medications, or their side effects, or what condition a medication treats. For older adults, the risks are even greater because they take multiple prescriptions: over 50% of older Americans take at least 5 prescriptions per day, and 25% take between 10 and 19. 34% percent of older adults who take 5 or more medications report not knowing the names of all the medications they use, nor their potential side effects.

To help address these problems, SafeMedService.org, created by MediGuard, is a website that educates consumers about drug interactions and their side effects. The website lists hundreds of drugs in alphabetical order, allowing consumers to look up information on both of these topics. It also lists health conditions and the drugs prescribed for those conditions. Users who register may enter all their medications and receive information about interactions, email alerts and updates regarding safety notifications on one’s medications, feedback from other members on medication side effects, and a printable list of one’s prescription drugs.

The information on the website is generalized and thus is NOT a substitute for professional advice. Users are encouraged to take the printed information to their providers (prescribers and pharmacists) to review. They can then discuss any concerns they have with their provider before making any changes in their medication regimen.

Medicare beneficiaries who have a Medicare Part D plan have another resource: the Medication Therapy Management (MTM) program. The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA 2003), which established the Medicare prescription drug program effective 2006, included a requirement that each Medicare Part D plan sponsor offer an MTM program. The purpose of the MTM program is to help beneficiaries and their doctors make sure the prescribed medications are working. To qualify for an MTM program, a beneficiary must meet 3 requirements: have at least 2 chronic conditions; take at least 3 medications; and have medication costs that are greater than $3,100 for the year. Some Part D plan sponsors, however, may have other requirements. For example, the sponsor for First Health Part D requires that an enrollee have at least 3 chronic conditions, such as chronic heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, dyslipidemia, hypertension or osteoporosis; take at least 8 Part D drugs; and spend at least $3,100 each year on medications.

If you qualify for your Part D plan’s MTM program, you get a free discussion and review of all of your medications by a pharmacist to help you use them safely. You’ll be encouraged to bring a summary of the review to talk with your doctors about changes in your drug regimen.

Part D plan sponsors are also required to measure and report MTM program outcomes to Medicare.
Beneficiaries taking multiple medications may choose to use the SafeMedService.org website and their Part D plan’s MTM program, if they qualify.

If you are an advocate working with beneficiaries, or a beneficiary choosing a Part D plan during one of your various enrollment periods, make sure to find out about the MTM programs of each plan you are considering and factor it into your plan choice. If you are looking at your plan choices on Medicare’s Plan Finder tool, once you get to this list of plans in your area, you will see the option to “View Plan Medication Therapy Management (MTM) program eligibility information.” Click on that link and you will see a list of plans and the eligibility requirements for each plan.

See the Medicare website for information on the Part D Medication Therapy Management (MTM). Advocates looking for more technical information can visit the Part D MTM page in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) website. And visit SafeMedService.org to check out the safety information on your or your clients’ medications.

Karen Fletcher
Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.

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