Seniors Taking Antidepressants at Risk for Drug Interactions

Pharmacists’ expertise is needed to protect seniors from harmful interactions with antidepressants.

More than 60% of older adults taking antidepressants experience drug-drug interactions, according to a large study published recently in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. The findings underscore the need for pharmacist-provided medication therapy management to protect seniors from dangerous adverse events.

“We found a concerning degree of potentially harmful drug combinations being prescribed to seniors,” said Tami Mark, PhD, the study’s lead author and director of analytic strategies at Thomson Reuters. She identified pain medications as the largest source of major interactions with antidepressants.

Among the 39,512 seniors Dr. Mark and colleagues studied, 25.4% had potential contraindicated or major interactions and 36.1% had moderate interactions. The researchers also found that side effects, such as insomnia or drowsiness, often resulted in seniors switching or discontinuing treatment.

Seniors’ complex medication regimens are partially to blame, but health care providers must do a better job of identifying potential interactions. “These findings reinforce the need for clinicians to be aware of potential drug-drug interactions and the importance of close patient monitoring,” Dr. Mark concluded.

Pharmacists can play a major role by taking appropriate steps to identify and resolve drug-drug interactions when filling prescriptions for antidepressants. They can also recruit patients to guard themselves against interactions by ensuring seniors complete a personal medication record. A blank record is available from the American Pharmacists Association Web site.

For other articles in this issue, see:

  • Fair Pharmacy Reimbursement a Result of Health Reform
  • Grant Targets Dwindling Options for Pharmacy Grads
  • Part D Plan Selection Poses Challenge for Patients