MORE than 17,000 older people may be admitted to acute hospitals every year because of problems with their medication.
An international conference in Dublin has been told that the failure by patients to take their medication properly is a major problem.
Tim Delaney, a hospital pharmacist who is head of the medication safety programme in the Health Service Executive (HSE), said a study in Cork found that 12pc of elderly patients admitted to hospital were there because of a medication problem.
If this was extrapolated nationally it would amount to 17,600 patients, he said at a the symposium for senior pharmaceutical policymakers.
"We are using a lot of multiple drugs and people can face difficulties. It may be related to the kind of support they have at home.
"A lot of people in Ireland don't want to know much about the medications they are taking."
He said he was working on improving drug charts for all patients to make sure they continued with the treatments they needed.
When they leave the hospital, doctors also need to communicate with the patient's GP and not just give them prescriptions.
The new written prescriptions will be more detailed and contain details about drugs that the patient was on that might have been stopped or changed.
Research shows that this could reduce errors by 30pc-40pc.
More than 6,800 medication errors were reported to have taken place in Irish hospitals in 2010.
There were a number of reports last year about side-effects to antibiotics, while new guidelines have also been drawn up around the drug Methotrexate, which is used to treat cancer and arthritis.
It should be taken once a week but a number of deaths have been linked to it here in the past 15 years. People can make the mistake of taking it every day, he added.
Key precautions hospital doctors need to take include:
* Ensure the patient is not allergic to the proposed medication.
* Check to see the patient is not taking any medication that may interact with the proposed treatment.
* Ensure the patient does not have an illness that may be exacerbated by the medication.
Tips for patients who are taking medications at home include:
* If swallowing tablets is difficult, ask your doctor or pharmacist whether there is a liquid form of the medicine or whether you could crush your tablets.
* Try to take the drugs at the same time every day. Try to link it with something else that you do regularly, such as brushing your teeth.
* Put a reminder note on the fridge or even behind the front door.
* Try keeping a chart or calendar to write down when you take your drugs. Use coloured pens or pencils to help you keep track of more than one type of medication.
* Use a special pillbox that helps keep your pills organised.