How to Prepare for Your Next Medication Review
A regular medication review with your pharmacist or healthcare team is essential to preventing complications and staying healthy.
By Susan B. Sloane, BS, RPh, CDE
Your path to good health not only includes taking your medications, but understanding the medications that you take. People living with a chronic condition oftentimes have other health conditions to address. These include raised blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heartburn or acid reflux, just to name a few.
If you’re living with multiple health conditions, balancing several medications is not always easy. You’re entitled to know exactly what your medication is for and the best way to take that medication. You can and should have a review of all of all of your medications periodically by your pharmacy team; this is sometimes known as a “brown bag review” or a Medication Therapy Management (MTM) review.
You will need to schedule an appointment with your pharmacist, as it’s difficult to just walk in and get the proper time you need to go through all of your medications. Your pharmacist can go over any medications from your chosen pharmacy and also check your bottles that may have come from other pharmacies to make sure you don’t have duplication.
Duplication is a common problem which is why it’s recommended to have your prescriptions filled in one single location if possible. Duplication of medication often occurs if you see multiple doctors who are not aware of all of your current prescriptions.
For example, your cardiologist may prescribe a medication for high blood pressure such as metoprolol, but your internist may have you on a medication already for high blood pressure, perhaps atenolol. Both of these medications are used for high blood pressure and are in a class of medications known as beta blockers.
Normally, you would not be on both of these at the same time, but if one doctor is unaware of your current medications, overlap may occur. This is where the pharmacist can intervene and communicate with the appropriate providers to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Perhaps most important is that you are aware of exactly what medications you are taking and why. You cannot and shouldn’t rely on your doctors or pharmacist to know exactly what medications you are taking at any specific point in time. Instead, you should have a thorough understanding of what each medication is for and the proper way to administer it.
It’s also important to look at all of your medications to make sure there are no drug or food interactions that may occur. A drug interaction is when one mediation affects another medication and causes it to be more potent or less effective. It is also important to understand that some medications should not be taken with food or certain juices like grapefruit juice.
That’s because grapefruit juice contains an enzyme that can affect the absorption and/or breakdown of certain medications. For example, a common drug used for cholesterol, atorvastatin, interacts with grapefruit juice. This interaction can cause the levels of atorvastatin in the blood to rise, potentially causing serious side effects. Another example is that certain antibiotics are most effective when taken on an empty stomach, while others can be taken with food.
It is also important to look at your medication list to see what the costs of your monthly medications are and if you may be able to lower those costs by using generic medications or even manufacturer coupons or offers. Some people don’t take medication because of the cost, and pharmacists can help find a way to help with understanding how to potentially lower the cost of some medications by working with your healthcare team.
Keep an eye on expiration dates; you need to dispose of “old” or expired medications. Some expiration dates are on your medication bottle if they are dispensed in their original container but if you’re having trouble finding an expiration date, your pharmacist may be able to help you find it. In general, it’s not recommended to keep medications that are over two years old, especially if you no longer take them.
You need to know how to properly dispose of medication; you can check with your local pharmacy for disposal center locations. Controlled substances need to be disposed of carefully and can only be handed over to certain facilities. Check with your health department locally to see where these can be handled.
Most important is to always ask questions if you don’t understand something and to take ownership of your medications. Remember, no one is going to be watching your every step; you need to be in charge of your own health and stay on top of the medications you are taking. Lastly, never take a medication without knowing the why and how! This will keep you safe and healthy!
About Susan Sloane
Susan B. Sloane, BS, RPh, CDE, has been a registered pharmacist for more than 29 years and a Certified Diabetes Educator for most of her career. Her two sons were diagnosed with diabetes, and since then, she has been dedicated to promoting wellness and optimal outcomes as a patient advocate, information expert, educator, and corporate partner.
Susan has published numerous articles on the topic of diabetes for patients and health care professionals. She has committed her career goals to helping patients with diabetes stay well through education.
The articles provided on this website are for informational purposes only. In addition, it is written for a generic audience and not a specific case; therefore, this information should not be used for diagnostic or medical treatment. This site does not attempt to replace the patient-physician relationship and fully recommends the reader to seek out the best care from his/her physician and/or diabetes educator.
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