Emory Report

 November 3, 1997

 Volume 50, No. 11


More 'talk about prescriptions'
would lead to better health outcomes

October was "Talk About Prescriptions" month. Just another promotion by pharmaceutical companies? Well, yes and no. Drug companies do support and promote this annual activity, but marketing is not its primary purpose.

We have all seen magazines articles and television programs pointing out horror stories relating to medications. It probably would surprise you to know that as many as 30 percent of prescriptions are never filled or that the cost of preventable drug-related illness, death and misuse, excluding hospitalization, was estimated at between $30 billion and $136 billion in a 1995 study.

But billions more were spent on drug-related hospitalizations due to insufficient treatment-often caused by a patient's failure to take medication as prescribed.

Many of today's prescription medications are very powerful and costly. This makes it even more important to know about their actions, side effects and interactions with other prescription medications, over-the-counter medications and foods. How and when you take medicine can be just as important in the success of your therapy as the fact that you take it at all. In most places, state law or pharmacy regulations require pharmacists to "offer counsel" to patients or caregivers at the time prescriptions are dispensed. This is a great opportunity for consumers to ask questions, learn more about the drugs they take and do their part to make sure they get-and remain-well.

None of us would purchase a car, television, VCR or computer without asking questions. These purchases are likely to have much less impact on your health and well-being than prescription medications and the increasingly powerful over-the-counter drugs we all use. As an informed and educated consumer, you certainly should talk about prescriptions with your physician and pharmacist to ensure the medications you take will lead to a healthier life and not to complications that could send you to the hospital or worse.

So, what should you talk about? Some important issues to discuss with your pharmacist and physician include:

  • What the medication is being prescribed for.
  • How to store the medication (refrigerated, away from sunlight, etc.).
  • When the medication should be taken-at what time and how close to meals or other medications.
  • How the drug should be taken (with water, juice) or used (with an inhaler, syringe, etc.)
  • What side effects or adverse reactions to watch for and what to do if they occur.
  • What to do if one or more doses is missed.
  • How long to continue taking or using the medication.
  • What foods or over-the-counter medications to avoid while taking the medicine.

Armed with this information, good outcomes are much more likely to happen. So don't just talk about prescriptions one month a year, but every time your doctor prescribes one for you.

Frank Landrum is the assistant director of the pharmacy at Emory Hospital. "Wellness" is coordinated by the Seretean Center for Health Promotion at the Rollins School.

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