Medicine helps prevent, manage and heal. It’s been a staple of effective health care for hundreds of years. The challenge with medication is that it needs to be prescribed and administered correctly, which requires action by both patient and provider. When taken incorrectly, medication does more harm than good. Sometimes the negative effects seem small, but when rectified, patients begin to realize how much better they feel.
More than half of all prescription medications taken in this country are used incorrectly. Medication errors by health care professionals can, and do, happen. Patients can also misuse medications. The most common ways this happens is by taking the incorrect dose, taking a dose at the wrong time, stopping the medicine too soon and mixing medications. But with proper help and consultation, medication errors are largely preventable.
Here are a few tips to help you better manage your medications:
1. Keep an updated medication list. You should have an up-to-date list of all prescription and over-the-counter drugs you are currently taking — that includes any vitamins or supplements too. Keep track of how much you take, what the medication is for and record any allergies or bad reactions you have had. Review that list with your health care provider at every visit.
2. Ask questions. A recent study showed that 96 percent of Americans do not ask questions about their medications. Be empowered and ask your doctor or pharmacist any questions you have about the drug.
• What does it do?
• How do I take it?
• What are the side effects?
• How will I know when it is working?
• Does this interact with my other medications?
• How long should I take it?
• What should I do if something seems wrong?
3. Take your medications as directed. Always read your medication labels and follow the instructions. If you alter the dosage or the frequency of your medication, it might cause an adverse drug event or the medication might not be as effective as when it is taken as directed.
4. Utilize medication therapy management services. Schedule a medication therapy management visit with a clinical pharmacist at least once a year. This one-on-one education and consultation allows you to have a conversation with a pharmacist about all of the medications you are taking and determine if each one of those drugs is correct, effective, safe and cost-effective. Your pharmacist can also answer your questions regarding side effects, dosage and potential negative interactions with other drugs and collaborate on your care to make positive medication changes.
When you review your medications with a pharmacist, you increase your chances of saving money on health expenses and reaching your health care goals, and you lower your likelihood of having medication-related complications. So, take a step toward living a healthier life by partnering with your health care team to manage your medications. For more information, visit www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org.