It started with a simple brown bag lunch. It was an event to help seniors take their medications safely and on schedule.

When I was a county commissioner in Wood County, our Extension Office held periodic brown bag lunches. People came with two brown bags. One held a lunch, the other bag contained medications prescribed to that person.

At these events, local pharmacists were generous with their time and expertise, to review the medicines these senior citizens were taking. Pharmacists made sure dosages were consistent, medications were compatible, and that people understood how and when to take their prescriptions.

I saw first-hand the importance of patients being compliant and safe with their medications. I also learned about seniors’ and their caregivers’ concerns with access to medications.

Now, as a state representative, I am working on legislation that continues this commitment to adherence and to convenient access to prescription medications.

House Bill 116 is a bill I am proud to co-sponsor with Rep. Tim Ginter of Columbiana County. The bill would allow patients to voluntarily synchronize their medication for a single monthly pick-up.

Medication synchronization is a helpful practice for people who take multiple medicines. It allows pharmacists, with authorization from a patient, to slightly change the length of a prescription to establish one date of refill for all the medicines. This allows patients, seniors, and caregivers the convenience of picking up all their medications, one day a month, instead of multiple trips to the pharmacy.

This ability to organize medications, and minimize pharmacy visits, helps ease one of the common barriers we hear about, when it comes to medication access. For seniors particularly, reliable transportation to the pharmacy is a very real problem. The convenience of one stop a month will provide many seniors a more predictable, dependable schedule for obtaining medications.

In addition, medication synchronization increases safety. With pharmacy synchronization, pharmacists meet with patients, discuss the various prescriptions they are taking, and “synch up” the dates for one refill time. In doing this, pharmacists have the added benefit of reviewing a patients medication to ensure correct dosage and compatibility among multiple drugs.

The National Community Pharmacists Association found in a study last year that patients who choose medication synchronization are 30 percent more likely to take their medication as prescribed than patients not enrolled in a synchronization program.

When we can establish public policy that helps patients with medication adherence, it results in healthier people and reduced costs in our health care system. Nationally, it is estimated that non-adherence costs our nation around $290 billion. This is because some people who don’t take their medicine as prescribed may experience more costly health setbacks, and require hospitalization or expensive surgery.

I am pleased to report that House Bill 116 has passed through the Ohio House of Representatives. When the General Assembly returns to the Statehouse this fall, the Ohio Senate will begin their work on this bill. I look forward to advocating for its passage and invite all Ohioans to join with me in supporting medication synchronization.