Monday, June 13, 2011

10 + 1 Tips for Being Medication Smart

The National Council on Patient Information and Education has a list of 10 ways to become medicine smart. When you get a prescription, remember to ask these questions:

1. What is the name of the medicine and what is it for? Is this the brand name or the generic name?

2. Is a generic version of this medicine available? If so, it may be more cost effective.

3. How and when do I take it - and for how long?

4. What foods, drinks, other medicines or activities should I avoid while taking this medicine?

5. When should I expect the medicine to begin to work - and how will I know if it's working?

6. Are there any side effects? What are they and what do I do if they occur?

7. Will this medicine work safely with the other prescription and nonprescription medicines I'm taking? Will it work safely with any supplements I use, like vitamins, for instance?

8. Do I need to get a refill? If so, when?

9. How should I store this medicine?

10. Is there any written information available about the medicine? Is it available in large print or a language other than English?

+1: This is my plus 1 to the list. Keep a list of all the medications you take available in your wallet, handbag or on your cellphone. In case of an emergency, the medications you take will be at-the-ready should the information be needed.


Xmichra said...

Okay, this is slightly funny... I thought that I was clicking one of my bead links because of the pill wheel.. lol.. I got to your page and was confused for a second! lol... Good info though!!

dawn said...

Last August I started a new med that I will be on for the rest of my life. I didn't find out until 3 months into treatment that I wasn't taking it properly. It was just a matter of the med not being as effective the way I was taking it, but I've heard of horrible interactions in people because they didn't know what to ask or look out for. Great list!

Anonymous said...

your "plus 1" tip makes me want to get my pom-pom's out - woohoo! thank u.

Dr Vin said...

Just thought I will add in a hint about Generic Medications from a Doctor perspective. When ask for generics, make sure you keep to same generic all the time as it can be very confusing. It is not uncommon for us to see in clinical practice where people are taking 2 of the same medications but with different generic names.

The other complications is that the are not "exactly" the same and hence, if you were titrated on one version of the medications, it may not give the same clinical outcome with another version of the same drug. The rule of thumb for my patients is that if I use a generic to titrate, then I get my patients to stick to the same generic. Does that make sense.

Dr Vin family Doctor Australia

UD Pharmacist said...

From a pharmacist or chemist point of view, my advice when considering a generic brand is:

If it's your first time taking the medication, this is an ideal situation to start on a generic brand.

Ask your doctor which of your medications your doctor would be comfortable for you to switch to generic brands and discuss these with your pharmacist. Your pharmacist is a valuable source of information and can give you much detail about generics.

Ask for a generic brand that is made by the same manufacturer, whenever possible. The packaging is different but the tablet / capsule is likely to be identical in colour & shape because it is actually the same medication repackaged, sometimes with the exception of the imprint on the tablet / capsule.

Ask to see the generic brand. Have a look at the packaging and the contents. Will you confuse them with other different medications that you currently take because they are similar in appearance?

Ensure that the pharmacist clearly labels your new generic medication both on the outside packaging and on the internal packaging (because if you throw the outside packaging out, you still need a clear reminder of what the medication is). This label should clearly show you which medication it is a substitute for.

Always finish your previous medication pack before starting a new generic to avoid confusion. Don't stock up on your medications as this causes much confusion when you switch generics and have several different types of packaging floating around. This also imposes a danger when the doctor changes your drug strength.
Insist on the same generic brand. Avoid switching to different generic brands of the same medication as this will simply add to the confusion. When you make a switch, stick to it and avoid changing unless therapeutically necessary. Sometimes it's not possible for every pharmacy to stock every generic version of a particular medication, so often they will offer you a generic that they stock so that you don't have to search for it elsewhere or go without. This problem can be minimised if you are a regular pharmacy customer of one or two pharmacies only, as they will always keep your medication on hand ready for your next refill. Also, be organised and don't refill your script upon taking your last dose of medication, to enable you time to find the same generic brand.

Try to stay with the same pharmacy and doctor. This will give you a double checking safety measure, because if they are familiar with what you normally take, and have a reliable computer history of your medications, then they will be able to pick up any discrepancies including medication brands.

I hope this will been a helpful addition to the topic.

UD Pharmacist Australia @

Dr Vin said...

Hi Deb,

Sorry I forgot to introduce myself. Iam Vin a Family Doctor with an interest in chronic health, mental health, parenting and worklife balance. I run a Medical Practice with 5 Doctors and 7 Psychologists. Iam trying to learn a few things from you and your site is quite an informative read. Keep on teaching and sharing. Thanks.


Dr. Deb said...

They are colorful. I can see how the image confused you.

It's important to be medication smart.

I should probably laminate the list I carry. It's old and crinkled!

Dr. Deb said...

Dr. Vin,
You make some excellent points- and so happy you've visited. I'll come by for a visit shortly.

UD Pharmacist,
AWESOME advice!

Depression Treatment Center said...

Being knowledgeable about one's medications and possible interactions is of paramount importance. Great, easy to understand instructions and a great idea to keep a list of ALL one's meds.