Rethinking Pill Packaging

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Just as medications enable seniors to live longer, healthier lives, they also make independent living more complicated. Managing a complex dosing regimen that includes multiple medications is a challenge that can land older patients in a nursing home before they’re ready.

A study published in the February issue of The American Journal of Geriatric Pharmacotherapy suggests that a simple change in how medications are packaged, coupled with counseling to address medication-related issues, can delay or avoid nursing home admissions entirely, helping seniors stay in their homes longer.

Researchers from the University of South Carolina found that a pharmacy-based calendar card dispensing system, when incorporated as part of a medication therapy management program, reduced the likelihood of nursing home admission by 66%.

For the study, researchers used Medicine-On-Time, a distribution system that packages all of a patient’s pills on a single calendar card. Each compartment contains a day’s worth of medications, eliminating the stacks of prescription containers that tend to pile up when age-related diseases reach their peak.

Of the 1073 nursing home–eligible patients included in the study, 273 used the Medicine-On-Time system. Patients in this group also consulted with a health educator to resolve any problems with their medications. The intervention was successful—patients in the control group were nearly 3 times more likely to be admitted to a nursing home. “Medication plays a central role in patients’ therapies,” said lead researcher Richard M. Schulz, PhD.

“Medication management systems, such as the one used in this study, can improve patients’ lives and well-being while reducing admissions to nursing homes, which has a far-reaching economic impact,” he said.