Pharmaceuticals-Herbs-Dietary Supplements

Introduction

Pharmaceutical advancements have allowed many older adults the opportunity to live healthier, more comfortable lives. Consider, for example, how vaccines for influenza, and pneumonia have saved lives and spared millions of older adults illness and discomfort. Diseases that were previously untreatable are now preventable, or managed through drugs.

With advances, however, come increased costs to health care, the potential for overuse, and incorrect administration of a drug for elderly patients. As with most elements of health care, the patient or the patients advocate must be well informed about which drugs may be appropriate, how they interact with other drugs, and side effects.

On this page we provided resources for learning more about drugs, their use, limitations, dosage, side effects, interactions with other drugs, and which drugs are available for a given health condition. We also provide information how elderly adults can obtain drugs at a discount and we provide information on herbs and dietary supplements.

Prescription and Over the Counter Drugs

The Food and Drug Administration provides an Index to Specific Drug Information that contains a listing of common prescription drugs and some over the counter medications and any alerts or new information on possible adverse reactions to these medications. This site should be used for those who wish to determine if there are any FDA warnings regarding a drug they are consuming.

Medline Plus provides detailed information on hundreds of drugs. Specifically, for each drug you will find information on the following:

  • Why is this medication prescribed?
  • How should this medicine be used?
  • Other uses for this medicine
  • What special precautions should I follow?
  • What special dietary instructions should I follow?
  • What should I do if I forget a dose?
  • What side effects can this medication cause?
  • What storage conditions are needed for this medicine?
  • In case of emergency/overdose
  • What other information should I know?
  • Brand names

This is a very comprehensive and informative site. If you wish to obtain additional information on medications, you will likely find what you need to know on this site.

Brand Name Drugs or Generic Drugs?

About 70% of the drugs prescribed in this country are generic rather than brand name drugs. Many people have false assumptions regarding the safety and effectiveness of the generic equivalents of brand name drugs. The Federal Drug Administration addresses the myths and truth about generic drugs. If you are uneasy about the use of generic drugs, this is a useful source of information to examine.

Information on Drugs and Drug Safety

Daily Med is a site developed by U.S. National Library of Medicine. DailyMed provides high quality information about marketed drugs. This information includes FDA approved labels (package inserts). The site provides health information providers and the public with a standard, comprehensive, up-to-date, look-up and download resource of medication content and labeling as found in medication package inserts. It currently contains a listing of approximately 7,000 drugs.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices‘ provides information on (1) how to safely dispose of medications, (2) alerts for consumers, (3) general advice on safe medication use, (4) lessons to be learned from past errors, (a downloadable brochure on safe medications use, and a medication safety newsletter for consumers. Another resource available through the Institute for Safe Medication Practices is a medication history form, an invaluable tool to keep track of medications taken by elderly adults.

Potentially inappropriate drugs for the elderly have been identified in a report from the Archives of Internal Medicine. This site allows the user to examine a listing of drugs that have been identified as inappropriate for the elderly. By clicking on the name of the drug, the user is linked to the MedLine Plus drug information site for information on the specific drug.

As You Age–A Guide to Aging,  Medicines, and Alcohol is a page provided by the FDA. These useful guidelines address (1) some general things to consider when tking medications, steps you can take on your own to lessen the risk of adverse effects of the drug, and symptoms of alcohol and medication misuse.

Herbs for Medicinal Use

Herbal Medicine is a comprehensive site presented by MedLine Plus. Here are some of the well written and iinformative sources of infomration found on this site:

Background on herbs presented by the National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.

Content of this page includes the following:

    What is a botanical?
    Can botanicals be dietary supplements?
    How are botanicals commonly sold and prepared?
    Are botanical dietary supplements standardized?
    Are botanical dietary supplements safe?
    Does a label indicate the quality of a botanical dietary supplement product?
    What methods are used to evaluate the health benefits and safety of a botanical dietary supplement?
    What are some additional sources of information on botanical dietary supplements?
    The Medline Plus site also has information on the use of the following herbs:
    • Aloe Vera (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Asian Ginseng (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Astragalus (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Bilberry (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Bitter Orange (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Black Cohosh (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Cat’s Claw (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Chamomile (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Chasteberry (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Cranberry (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Dandelion (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Echinacea (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Echinacea: What Should I Know about It? (American Academy of Family Physicians)
    • Ephedra (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • European Elder (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • European Mistletoe (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Evening Primrose Oil (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Fenugreek (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Feverfew (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Garlic (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Ginger (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Gingko (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Goldenseal (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Grape Seed Extract (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Green Tea (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Hawthorn (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Hoodia (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Horse Chestnut (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Kava (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Lavender (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Licorice Root (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Milk Thistle (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Noni (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Peppermint Oil (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Red Clover (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Saw Palmetto (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Soy (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • St. John’s Wort (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Thunder God Vine (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Turmeric (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Valerian (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    • Yohimbe (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)

Dietary Supplements

Dietary Supplments Label Database offers information about label ingredients in more than 4,000 selected brands of dietary supplements. It enables users to compare label ingredients in different brands. Information is also provided on the “structure/function” claims made by manufacturers.These claims by manufacturers have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Companies may not market as dietary supplements any products that are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

HELPGUIDE.ORG has a rather extensive Web page on dietary supplements. Here you will find information on what are dietary supplements, the health advantages of vitamins ans minerals, the use of herbal supplements, who can benefit from supplements, supplement safety, supplements that should not be taken prior to surgery, researching and buying minerals, supplements and herbs, and a comprehensive listing of links to additional resources on dietary supplements.

Nutrition.gov provides useful guidelines on the consumption of vitamins and dietary supplements. Included on this page is a discussion of the following topics:

1. Do I really need them? This site take  the position that most older adults can obtained needed vitamins and minerals in their daily diet and provides a link to the Dietary Guidlines for Americans for a  list of foods high in specific vitamins and minerals.

2. Should I talk to my doctor about taking vitamin/mineral supplements?

3. Where can I find scientifically sound information about vitamin/mineral supplements? This sections lists on-line resources to find information of the safety and use of specific vitamins and supplements.

4. What should I do if I suspect I may be having a side-effect from a dietary supplement?

The National Institute of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements provides a vitamin and mineral supplement fact sheet. This page contains information on what the dietary supplement is, foods that contain the supplement, the role of the supplement in nutrition, daily intake of the supplement, possible adverse reactions from consuming to much of the supplement, who may need the supplement, and current issues regarding the use of the supplement. Information on the following supplements can be obtained from this site by clicking on the supplement below.

  • Calcium
  • Chromium
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Zinc

Financial Assistance for Prescriptions

There are a number of ways to reduce the costs of your prescriptions either through assistance programs or rebates from pharmaceutical companies. Listed below are Web sites that provide assistance in reducing costs.

NeedyMeds is a non-profit organization providing assistance to individuals who cannot afford medications or healthcare costs. Their Web site contains a variety of valuable information on state and federal programs, coupons for reduced drugs, assistance programs directly from individual drug companies, and govern programs. Here is a listing of the content on their site.

NOTE: Click on the category to connect to the link.

Patient Assistance Programs

Additional Programs

Government Programs

The Partnership for Prescription Assistance provides help to patients without prescription drug coverage. Many qualified patients receive the drugs free and their is no charge for using the services at the Partnership for Prescription Assistance. This Web site provides a single point of access to 475 public and private drug assistance programs.  Users can complete the application for assistance on-line.