Family physicians often give seniors samples of a certain medication at the time of their office or clinic visit. Doctors typically do this when they are starting a new type of medication to see if it is a good fit and if it is well tolerated. This is wonderful for seniors who are on a budget, as they don’t have to purchase the medication before trying it out. Many seniors will receive vouchers from their doctors that can later be filled at the pharmacy, although not all pharmaceutical companies offer vouchers.
Medication samples can pose problems for seniors if they are dispensed from the doctor without clear and detailed instructions for use at home. Medication errors have occurred when seniors are unclear about the use of the samples, or when caregivers were not given clear instructions.
In order to be safe, the following information should be written down by the doctor or caregiver and attached to the sample medication:
- Name of Medication
- Reason for the Medication
- Amount to Be Taken
- Frequency of Administration
- Any Special Precautions
- Side Effects That Can Be Expected
When seniors receive a sample of antibiotic medication, caregivers may need to add water to them in order to make a liquid suspension. Naturally, this should be clearly explained on the label. It is vital for caregivers to follow the instructions for any dilution of medication very carefully. Adding the wrong amount of water may result in a concentration that is way too high. This prevents seniors from receiving an accurate dose of medication.
Caregivers must also be aware of the expiration date printed on the package of the samples. Doctors often store samples in their offices for long periods of time and it is possible seniors can receive an out-of-date sample by accident.
If seniors are already taking other prescription medications, over-the-counter medications or herbal products, caregivers should discuss any dangerous interactions with the doctor. If a question arises later regarding the dangers of an interaction, caregivers should contact the pharmacist or doctor for guidance. Remember…it is always better to be safe than sorry.