“Keeping An Eye on Your Prescription Medicines”

If your doctor/nurse has ordered a prescription medicine, there are several ways you can keep an eye on proper dispensing of your prescription and the correct instructions to get the most benefit.   Here’s how:

1- While you’re in the doctor’s office/clinic/hospital, ask the doctor for the name of the prescription, the dose, the reason he/she is prescribing it and the instructions for taking it.  You’d be surprised how little errors and misunderstandings can prevent an optimal response to your medication.  Additionally, knowing what you’re getting in advance will be an asset when you go to the pharmacy  to pick it up.

2- At the pharmacy, check the prescription label.  Is it what the doctor prescribed?  The medication may have a different name, shape or color,  if it’s a generic rather than a brand pill/liquid.  If you notice a difference, be sure and ask the pharmacist.  That’s what that little “consultation area” is for.  Don’t hesitate.

Recently,  a young woman shared her pharmacy story:  Upon picking up her prescribed birth control pills, she checked the color of the packet – different; checked the number of refills – incorrect, one rather than 3 months and the product name – different.   When she pointed out the error to the the pharmacy, their response was, “Oops!”  That little error could turn out to be an adorable, but unexpected “oops!” in about nine months.

It takes just a few minutes to do a little Sherlock Holmes detective work.  Read the label.  If you’ve taken this medication before, check to see if it looks the same.  Know the number of refills you’re entitled to.  Notice a discrepancy?  Ask.  These simple steps will save you plenty of time plus prevent unknown or potentially serious side effects that could occur if you take the wrong medication.

3 – Review the instructions on the label with the pharmacy staff.  How often do I take this?  Will this medication interact with  other prescriptions or over-the-counter medications/vitamins/homeopathic products that I take?   Is it recommended I ingest it on an empty stomach or with a meal?  Most pharmacies have labels that answer all of your questions and include a patient information print-out, but it’s okay to review that information before you leave the pharmacy.

4- If after you’ve taken your medication, read the patient information and noticed an unusual reaction not previously mentioned, call your healthcare professional.  Don’t ignore it.

Pharmacists are smart, professional and caring.  Sometimes, they’re pretty busy and unfortunately, they’re as human as the rest of us.  Help them help you by staying alert and aware of your medications.

Want to know how to help your parents, grandparents and older friends of a certain age keep their medications straight?  Stay tuned for my next blog.

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