If you are one of the many Canadians taking medications, or you are helping a friend or loved one manage their medications, you know it can be tricky to stay on top of everything. At the latest Sunnybrook Speaker Series, The Pharmacist Will See You Now, Dr. Sharon Domb offered several important tips that everyone should keep in mind to make the process safer and easier.
The first step may sound obvious, but be familiar with all the medications you’re taking, says Dr. Domb, a family physician in Sunnybrook’s Department of Family & Community Medicine. There can be confusion if you are seeing several different specialists and receiving prescriptions from numerous sources. Also, some medications are meant to be taken long-term, and others for just a short period of time.
This is why it’s so important to keep track of everything you are taking, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and any natural remedies and supplements, she says. Write down the name of each medication, the dosage, how often you take it, why you are taking it and who prescribed it to you.
Dr. Domb says there are many different ways to document this information. You can write it down, take a picture of all your pill bottles or use an app on your phone to help you stay organized. But regardless of what method you use, Dr. Domb advises to keep it up to date and on hand wherever you go. You never know when you, your doctor or pharmacist may need this list for easy reference.
Keeping track of your refills is also key, she says. Before going to see your doctor, check to see which medications you need refills on and ask for them at your appointment. That will save you from paying any refill fees some doctors’ offices charge. While doctors know the initial quantity they prescribed to you, they don’t know when you filled that prescription or how many pills you actually took.
Another often overlooked step is taking your medications regularly and as prescribed. It may help to keep them in an accessible and visible place so you don’t forget. Just make sure that place is also cool, dry and secure. If you are out of the house or travelling, take your medications with you. Dr. Domb says to consider a dosette or blister packs for your medication, which can help simplify multiple prescriptions and serve as a visual reminder to stay on schedule. And never stop taking your medications abruptly before checking with your health care team first.
When you do see your health care team, be honest with them, says Dr. Domb. Knowing about over-the-counter and herbal remedies, missed medications or other factors that can affect your medication’s effectiveness – like excessive drinking – will all factor in to your course of treatment. Doctors and pharmacists can’t make the best recommendations for you without all the facts in hand.
Watch the Speaker Series event below:
(Note: due to technical issues, the first few minutes of this event were not recorded. We apologize for the inconvenience.)