Nearly half of all Americans have taken at least one prescription medication, and 20 percent have used three or more prescription drugs in the last month. But according to a National Council on Patient Information and Education survey, more than half report not taking their medications as prescribed, putting them at risk for serious health concerns.
During October, which is American Pharmacists Month and Talk About Your Medicines Month, University of Toledo pharmacists are encouraging patients to build a relationship with their pharmacist in order to learn how to take medications properly, manage multiple prescriptions, and reduce prescription costs.“Your pharmacist is likely the most accessible health-care provider you have,” said Lindsey Eitniear, clinical pharmacist. “Yet not enough people take the time to talk to their pharmacist about their health. That is truly unfortunate because we can provide many services to help our patients understand and manage their medications better.”
More than 12,000 prescriptions are filled each month across UT’s three outpatient pharmacies, and pharmacists work directly with patients who are recovering in UT Medical Center or being treated in several of the University’s clinics.
“We educate patients about taking their medication properly, identifying potential side effects, and managing chronic conditions,” Eitniear said. “We also work to resolve insurance concerns and explore options for reducing out-of-pocket expenses.”
New legislation also allows a physician to permit pharmacists to make adjustments to medication dosages, including those for blood pressure and diabetes, at the pharmacy.
“We work closely with physicians to suggest simplifying medications or to clarify what has been ordered,” Eitniear said. “This extra communication ensures patients know how to take their medications correctly and is an added safety for patients.”
Eitniear said it is safest when patients use the same pharmacy each time they need a prescription filled, particularly if the patient takes multiple drugs.
“We can track some controlled medicines and a few others are tracked through insurance companies, but there is no one database that holds all patient prescription information,” she said. “Even a seemingly simple antibiotic can cause severe interactions with some medications. Pharmacists can spot these potential hazards if prescriptions are filled in the same location.”
Consistent use of the same pharmacy also allows a relationship to form between patient and pharmacist.
Holly Smith, UTMC Outpatient Pharmacy manager, said patients should talk about all medications they are taking at each doctor’s appointment. She said printouts of all prescribed medications can be requested from the pharmacy and shared with physicians and family members.
“I tell patients to carry the list in their purse or wallet so they always have it with them,” she said. “It’s also important that there is at least one designated family member who knows your health history and medications in case of emergency.”
This also is a good time to take inventory of any leftover or expired medications. Pharmacists can advise patients the proper methods for disposing of old prescription and over-the-counter medications.
“We accept unwanted medications in a drop box in the Emergency Department of UTMC,” Smith said. “Patients with injectable medications should follow the directions on their sharps container for proper disposal.”
Smith said unused medications also can be mixed with used kitty litter or coffee grounds and disposed of in the trash. Medicated patches should be folded over and stuck together before being thrown away.
“I would advise anyone getting a prescription filled to take a minute to ask a few questions about the medication you will be taking. You can even call your usual pharmacy to review medications and discuss any concerns,” Smith said. “It is our goal as pharmacists to do the best we can by our patients so they are able to care for themselves and stay well.”