Keeping you safe is our number one priority here at Owensboro Health. Every year in the United States, patients experience 1.5 million adverse medication events, where they become sick or need to go back to the hospital because of a problem with the medicine they are taking. Our pharmacists are taking steps every day to ensure our patients have the right medicines, understand why they are taking them, and avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital. As part of your healthcare team, pharmacists ask questions about your medicines to ensure we have correct information, to make the best decisions about your health, and to provide you with excellent care.
Here is a list of some of the most common questions and why we ask them:
“What medicines are you taking?”
Assumptions are never a good thing in the field of medicine. We may ask obvious questions, but we do it to make sure everyone is on the same page. We want to make sure we know exactly what you’re taking. This includes herbs, vitamins, supplements, and over-the-counter items. These may be available without a prescription, but we still need to know about them. They can change the way your medicines work, or cause them not to work at all. Medicines can be affected by many things, including foods you eat or certain diseases.
“Why are you taking this medicine?”
We ask this question to make sure we understand what the doctor is trying to treat. Medicines typically used to treat one condition may sometimes be useful to treat others. Asking this question helps us make sure all your medical needs are being met and that you are taking the drugs that will accomplish that.
“How are you taking your medicine?”
It’s not just what medicine you take, but also how you take it. Are you taking it often enough? Are you taking it for as long as you need to? Sometimes you need to take a medicine until you finish it, not just until you feel better. When in doubt, follow the instructions on the bottle or ask your pharmacist or doctor to be certain.
“What problems are you having with your medicine?”
If a patient has a side effect when they take a medicine like dizziness or an upset stomach, the patient may not want to take it. When your pharmacist knows about these problems, your pharmacist may have suggestions to help you better tolerate your medicine or may work with your doctor to change the medicine to a better choice for you.
Medicine is a complex field. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor any time you change or add medicines, including herbs, vitamins, supplements, or over-the-counter medicines. Don’t assume something is safe just because you didn’t need a prescription to get it.
The following are some important points to remember about medicines to ensure your safety:
- Tell the truth: There’s an old saying that you should never lie to your doctor or lawyer. That goes for your pharmacist, too. There’s no such thing as a fib or a little white lie when it comes to your medicine. Sometimes those half-truths can lead to problems that land you back in the hospital. If you don’t fully understand the question, ask us to explain it.
- Take your medicine as directed: It’s very common that patients don’t take their medicine the right way, either not taking enough or taking too much. Either way can lead to an outcome that is not good for the patient. It is important to take your medicine for as long as it’s prescribed, not just until you feel better.
- Don’t share your medicine: This isn’t just illegal. It’s dangerous. If a medicine is prescribed to a person, they shouldn’t be sharing it with anyone for any reason. This goes for married couples on the same medicine. I have often seen couples who split medicine in order to save money, and that can make both people very sick. If you have trouble affording medicines, talk to your pharmacist. We may know affordable ways to help you get the medicines you need.
- Over-the-counter doesn’t mean safe: Ask your pharmacist or doctor if any herbs, supplements, or vitamins might affect the medicines you’re being prescribed. This can make a huge difference in how well your prescriptions work.
- Antibiotics aren’t for everything: If you have a cold or the flu, antibiotics won’t help you. In fact, taking antibiotics when you don’t need them, or not taking them as directed, can cause bacteria that make you sick to become resistant to these drugs. Resistant infections can be deadly and are much more difficult (and expensive) to treat. Remember, taking your antibiotics until you finish them, not just until you feel better, is absolutely essential.
- Store your medicines properly: Medicines are very sensitive to moisture and temperature. Follow the directions on how to properly store medicines. Avoid putting them in the bathroom or the kitchen and never leave them in the car; these are all places where your medicines can get hot and humid. If a medicine doesn’t need refrigeration, don’t put it in the refrigerator or freezer. The wrong temperature can destroy a medicine’s ability to help you.
If you have any questions about your medicines, including why your doctor or pharmacist recommends you do things a certain way, don’t be afraid to ask. We’re committed to help you understand every step of the process. We want you to be well, safe, and making the most of your life.