Safe alternatives to high-risk medications

A close up on a pharmacist holding a prescription pointing at the directions.

It's important for you to know as much as you can about the drugs you're taking. This helps you get the most benefit from your medications and avoid medical errors.

Find out if you are taking high-risk medications

In people 65 years and older, medical studies show that some medicines should be reviewed by patients and their doctors because they can cause serious side effects.1,2 These harmful side effects include falls, confusion, sleepiness, drowsiness and weakness. According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), these drugs, known as “High Risk Medications,” should be avoided or used with caution in the senior population.

Even if you are not experiencing any side effects now, it is a good idea to continually evaluate your medicines for potential side effects or issues so that good health and well-being can be maintained over time.

Here is a list of the most commonly-prescribed high-risk medications and possible alternatives (if clinically appropriate)

Medication Side Effects Alternatives Amitriptyline

  • Sleepiness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness when getting up

Non-Medication:
Better sleep habits

Medication:
Melatonin Trazodone

Carisoprodol
Cyclobenzaprine
Metaxalone
Methocarbamol

  • Sleepiness
  • Increased risk of falls and fractures

Baclofen
Tizanidine

Digoxin (daily doses greater than 0.125mg)

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Vision changes

Adjust other heart failure
medications

Estrogen containing products

  • Increased risk of breast or endometrial cancers

Hot Flashes:
Sertraline
Venlafaxine

Dryness:
Premarin® cream

Bone Health:
Alendronate

Glyburide

  • Low blood sugar

Glimepiride
Glipizide

Nitrofurantoin

  • Lung damage
  • Kidney injury

Sulfamethoxazole/Trimethoprim
Ciprofloxacin
Cephalexin

Zolpidem

  • Sleepiness
  • Confusion

Non-Medication:
Better sleep habits

Zaleplon
Eszopiclone (Greater than 90 day supply total in 1 year)

  • Increased risk of falls and fractures

Medication:
Melatonin
Trazodone

Keeping your medication list up-to-date

To reduce your risk of medication problems, make a complete list of:

  • prescriptions you take
  • over-the-counter medicines you take
  • vitamins and supplements you use
  • drug allergies
Discuss your medications with your doctor and update this information regularly, keep it handy, and make sure someone else knows where to find it. As a Humana member, you can keep track of this information quickly and easily with RxMentor. You can use this tool by signing in to MyHumana , opens new window or by downloading the mobile app. , opens new window

Other safety tips

Here are some other ways to use medications safely:

  • Know the purpose of your medications —You should know the name and strength of the medication, why you're taking it, and for how long you should take it. Put this information on your medication list. You also should understand any special instructions, such as "take with food" or "avoid alcoholic beverages."
  • Watch for interactions — Remember that other drugs, including over-the-counter medicines, and even some foods, can interact with your medication. That's why you need to tell your doctor about all the drugs you take.
  • Talk to your doctor about problems or side effects — Your doctor may decide to change the dosage or try a different medicine.
  • Check every fill of your prescriptions — When you pick up a new prescription or refill, make sure the drug and strength match what your doctor prescribed.
  • Take each dose exactly as prescribed — If you have trouble remembering to take your medicines, ask your pharmacist to help you organize them.
  • Don't keep medicines past their expiration date — Old drugs can be ineffective or dangerous.
Knowing how, when and why to take your medicine helps ensure you stay in good health.

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