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Study finds adults over 55 unaware of meds’ effects on driving

A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that many adults over 55 years of age are unaware that the medications they use can pose a driving risk. Researchers concluded that physician-patient communications are often incomplete with regard to the potential risks of medications.

With the changing demographics in the workforce, this finding has relevance regarding the occupational health and safety of older workers. Side effects of drugs can affect job performance and safety. This is a sensitive area and HIPPA and the ADA protect employees’ right to privacy when it comes to prescription drug use.

The ADA defines a "disability-related inquiry" as a question that is likely to elicit information about a disability, such as asking employees about: whether they have or ever had a disability; the kinds of prescription medications they are taking; and, the results of any genetic tests they have had. After employment begins, an employer may make disability-related inquiries and require medical examinations only if they are job-related and consistent with business necessity.

While employers need to be cautious about employee privacy issues and applicable laws, general education about prescription drugs – both in terms of costs and generic alternatives and understanding side effects - can be extremely helpful to the employee and the employer.