British Columbia

New medication card aims to reduce accidental drug poisoning among seniors

An April campaign wants to reduce British Columbians' risk of accidental drug poisoning by helping seniors keep track of all the medications they take.

'Up to 125 people die in B.C. every year because of mixing medications,' says doctor

About 30 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 65 and 79 take at least five prescription medications, according to Statistics Canada. (U.S. Department of Defense)

Local pharmacies are distributing a new wallet card to help British Columbians keep track of the pills they take and reduce the number of accidental drug poisonings.

Every year, almost 4,000 poisoning cases require hospitalization across the province, according to data from the Ministry of Health. Hundreds of those affected are seniors.

"Up to 125 deaths per year happen in this province because of the adverse effects of mixing medications," said Dr. Ian Pike, an expert in injury prevention.

Drugs and supplements can mix dangerously

Pike is a spokesperson for an April awareness campaign to reduce dangerous medication mixing organized by the Community Against Preventable Injuries, London Drugs and the Fraser Health Hospital Foundation.

Medication cards are being distributed at local pharmacies.

Patients can write the names and doses of all the pills they take on the wallet card, whether prescription or over the counter. The card can then be reviewed by a pharmacist.

A new wallet card distributed at London Drugs pharmacies is meant to help seniors track what medications they are taking. (Jim Mulleder / CBC)

"We're not just talking about prescription medications," said Pike. "It can also include over-the-counter drugs where individuals choose to take medications that can relieve symptoms."

He adds that supplements like vitamins, minerals — and even food — can interact in negative ways.

According to the most recent Statistics Canada data, 30 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 65 and 79 take at least five prescription medications at the same time. And the risk of accidental overdose or poisoning increases with an aging population.

Rita Barren, 71, says the card will be useful for her, but might be complicated for older seniors.

"I think that if you're older, unless you have someone to help you, you won't do this. They just wouldn't be bothered or they wouldn't understand."

Seventy-one-year-old Rita Barren says she knows what medications she takes, but the new wallet card will help keep track of the dosage and the brand name. (Jim Mulleder / CBC)

The cards can be downloaded online or picked up at participating London Drugs pharmacies in the Lower Mainland.

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