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Do you really need a blister to take your medications? Before taking that long walk in tight shoes read on...

Posted Aug 3rd, 2014 in Safety, Tips, Dementia

Do you really need a blister to take your medications? Before taking that long walk in tight shoes read on...

I was extolling the benefits of pill blister packs as a possible aid for medication accuracy and compliance for some clients, when a Generation Y listener chimed in with a question, (or was it a comment)?

“What’s up with the name “blister” pack, sounds pretty gross if you ask me.”

I guess I hadn’t really thought of it in this way, but I suppose he was equating the sealed blister enclosure that holds medications, to the actual physical malady.  Actually if you think of the name "blister" pack in this way, it does lose a bit of the mystique!

Setting the name aside, this is a packaging system for medications, where the pills are separated in sections based on the time of day/week the medication is to be ingested. Each blister has one side that is clear or opaque so the user is able to visualize the contents. Pharmacies fill and seal these medication cards insuring the medications are prepared to align with the physician's orders.

For individuals looking to use this style of medication delivery: the pack is able to hold seven days worth of pills; with pouches that can be used as ordered, usually at mealtimes and bedtime.  

Because the seven day packages are generally consistent in size, a bubble may be left empty if pills are not ordered for a designated time of day.  This allows for the same packaging to be used for people following different medication regimes or for those who take pills more frequently.

The Client releases the medications by pushing the clear portion of the blister and pills through the back of the pack.

The benefits of the packs include:

* The pharmacy fills and seals the packs so there is no handling of the medications by the user prior to ingestion 

* Because the meds are dispensed weekly, there is a greater awareness at the pharmacy level when physician reorders are required. The pharmacy is dependent on the ongoing prescriptions to fill the packs according to the doctor's orders 

* It can be a good reminder system for individuals who struggle to remember their medications, or may forget if pills have been ingested 

* It allows for care providers to assess medication compliance, by reviewing the med pack at the time of the home visit to see if the empty pill pouches coincide with the time of day/week


* The blister packs are not child proof as they are designed for ease of access 

* If an individual struggles with recognition of date, day, or time, unsupervised medication ingestion may not be appropriate 

* Should the individual take vitamins and herbals, most often these will need to be ordered by the physician and purchased at the pharmacy level for inclusion in the pack 

* Changes in medications will require the pharmacy to adjust the meds in the pack, potentially part way through the weeks cycle 

* The cost for the use of this system should be discussed with your pharmacy, as well as any possible affiliated home delivery costs

Sometimes Clients and Caregivers will choose this type of medication delivery for the following reasons:

* Convenience 

* Ease for travelling 

* Reduction of human error (if appropriate for the user) 

* Easy transition if a client requires a new caregiver to manage medication delivery 

* Senior day or respite programs often require this type of medication packaging

How do I know if this is right for me?

There are many considerations to review when choosing the best method of medication administration to suit an individual's needs. Your pharmacist, nurse practitioner, and physician are excellent resources in the decision making process.

For Ontario Residents, ask your pharmacist about the Medscheck initiative: a free annual consultation and review of your medication list by your pharmacist.  www.ontario.ca/medscheck

Reflecting on the comments of my Generation X friend, the name blister pack seems to be the most popular terminology to describe this type of dispensing technology. However, there are references to bubble packs, med packs etc. at some pharmacies.

Perhaps in the future, this generation will create new technology to support medication administration as it relates to health and disease management. 

In the interim "blister" may not be the most pleasing descriptor, but it appears to be the most recognizable term when it comes to discussing this specialized packaging.

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