What To Know About Your Prescriptions

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show

Larry Meiller talks with two pharmacists about what to ask when starting a new prescription, how a pharmacist can help you avoid dangerous drug interactions and more.

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  • When Filling A Prescription, Use Pharmacist As A Resource

    Even if someone is generally in good health, chances are that they will be prescribed a new medication at some point, either for short- or long-term use. And the pharmacist who fills that prescription can be a valuable resource to ensure that the medication is taken safely and effectively.

    Dr. Casey Gallimore is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy and is also a practicing pharmacist with a specialty in psychiatric drugs. She said that one of the most important services that a pharmacist can provide is a “med review.”

    “A med review is advising in terms of the medications that have been prescribed. Most pharmacists don’t have extensive training in diagnosis. But pharmacists are really qualified once we have a diagnosis to make the most appropriate recommendations,” Gallimore said.

    When picking up a new prescription, Gallimore said that it’s a great time to ask questions. Basic inquiries about how to take the drug are important, including whether it should be taken with food or apart from a meal, and ensuring that the dosage and frequently are clear.

    Potential drug interactions are an important topic to cover as well. Especially for people who are being treated for different conditions by multiple health care providers, Gallimore said that pharmacists can perform an important safety function.

    “If you fill at one single pharmacy, even if you’re going to multiple prescribers, sometimes it’s the pharmacist who can really, truly see all of the medications that a person is taking. Because if you’re getting drugs from a lot of different doctors … they might not even be aware of other medications that you’re on,” Gallimore said.

    Gallimore added that even if the pharmacist has a list of your other prescriptions handy, it is good to ask about each medication. Over the counter treatments, supplements and even vitamins should be mentioned as well, since interactions can happen with any substance being taken by the patient.

    “If they have your whole profile there, pharmacists are really good at being able to identify drug interactions and proactively make recommendations to avoid or minimize them,” Gallimore said.

    When getting a prescriptions refilled, Gallimore suggested that it is wise to report any side effects to the pharmacist so that she can let you know if it is serious, minor, or perhaps even that it is likely unrelated.

    In the case of side effects, Gallimore said that pharmacists can also suggest a different medication that could also treat the underlying condition while avoiding the unwanted outcomes. Alternately, if it is necessary to stay on that particular drug, she said that a pharmacist may have ideas of how to minimize the side effects.

    For patients with multiple prescriptions, it can be difficult to keep track of what to take when and with what restrictions. Gallimore said that pharmacists are happy to help with what they call “adherence aids.” That can include pill boxes, reminder systems and other tools to make sure that medications are taken as prescribed.

    Dr. John Dopp is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy and is also a practicing pharmacist with a specialty in drugs use to treat sleep disorders. Dopp said that in the case of long-term prescriptions, it’s a good idea to check occasionally with the prescribing doctor and a pharmacist about that medication, especially if someone was put on an additional drug for other reasons.

    Gallimore added that pharmacists are also a good resource to know if there is a new drug on the market for a condition for which someone is being treated, and whether that might be an option. Similarly, they can let a person know if a generic version has become available and if that may be a less expensive option to consider.

    Gallimore added that pharmacists also stay current on new research published about well-establish drugs and can inform a patient about any new relevant findings.

    Dopp said that some medications, like statin drugs for cholesterol treatment, are used long-term. He said that instead of changing the dose yourself, it’s a good idea to ask a pharmacist about whether it is possible to decrease dosage at some point, and how to do that safely. With any types of drugs, he said, it’s important to know if there are risks to stopping them too abruptly.

Episode Credits

  • Larry Meiller Host
  • Judith Siers-Poisson Producer
  • Casey Gallimore Guest
  • John Dopp Guest