Does a question about a new prescription medication typically come to you after leaving your doctor’s appointment? When picking up a new prescription at your pharmacy, do you usually skip the offer to talk with your pharmacist about the medication?
According to Jeff Anderson, PharmD, MS, BCPS, Director of Pharmacy Services at Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC), both of these are excellent opportunities to get questions answered and communicate any concerns you have about your medications.
Anderson – an advocate for patient-provider and patient-pharmacist communication – suggests the following questions to start a conversation about any new medication your provider prescribes:
- Why am I taking this medication?
- How will this medicine help me?
- How do I take the medication?
- What side effects could I experience while taking this medication?
- Could this medication interfere with other prescriptions, herbal supplements or over-the-counter medications I’m currently taking.
“Talk with your doctors about your medications at every appointment and at the very least annually,” said Anderson. “Your physician may be able to discontinue a medication or reduce the number of medications you take.”
These conversations are particularly important for older adults who are at risk for “polypharmacy” – the use of multiple prescription drugs at the same time. Nearly 40 percent of people 65 and older take five or more prescription medications. And people who take multiple prescription drugs have an 88 percent risk of experiencing adverse reactions. How can you prevent polypharmacy and manage medication? Anderson recommends you begin by gathering information on your medications.
- Create a list of all medications you take, including prescriptions, herbal supplements, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and any medication delivered through an internal or external pump.
- Include the medication name, dose and frequency on your list as well as other instructions, such as whether to take the medication with or without food.
- Add any allergies you have to your medication list.
- Keep copies of your list handy in multiple locations (e.g., purse, wallet, car, work and on the refrigerator at home).
Don’t flush medications you’re no longer using as they can get into the water system. Matforce – an organization dedicated to reducing substance abuse in Yavapai County – sponsors a medication disposal program in communities throughout the area. For household disposal, the EPA recommends mixing expired, discontinued or unwanted medications with dirt, kitty litter or coffee grounds in a disposable container and placing in the trash.
And the next time you pick up a prescription at your pharmacy, take the opportunity to speak to the pharmacist about your medication.
“Pharmacists want to speak to people about their medications,” Anderson said. “They have years of education and lots of knowledge they like to share with patients.”