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Medication Checkup: What It Is and Why You Need One

 

Almost half of all Americans age 50 and older take four or more prescriptions each day, according to an AARP study. For many, managing so many medications can be costly, overwhelming, and potentially harmful. To stay safe (and cost-efficient), consider a medication checkup.

Christa Winterhalter, PharmD, senior clinical pharmacist at Highmark suggests scheduling this checkup with your pharmacist. During the meeting, the pharmacist will identify potential drug interactions, assist with lowering costs, and streamline your medication routine.

“As we get older, a lot of people start seeing multiple doctors, including a primary doctor and one or more specialists,” Winterhalter says. “Often your doctor doesn’t know what your other providers have prescribed. But your pharmacist sees it all and is a drug expert.”

Benefits of a medication review

Your pharmacist looks for red flags whenever filling a prescription. But during a medication checkup, the pharmacist can answer all your questions and review how your medication affects your daily life. During the review, your pharmacist will: 

Identify possible drug interactions and high doses: While reviewing your prescriptions, the pharmacist also considers any vitamins and supplements you take when looking for potential issues. “People often forget they are taking multivitamins and supplements,” Winterhalter says “But those can also interact with your medications.”

Remind you which drug does what: With so many prescriptions, it’s often difficult to remember what drug treats which condition, especially if you’ve been taking the medication for a while. Your pharmacist can identify the reason you take that drug. If you aren’t sure whether you still need a particular medication, consult with the prescribing doctor.

Help with your medication schedule and organization: You may find yourself forgetting to take your medication or frustrated with an inconvenient drug schedule. The pharmacist can help with pill minders or recommend other drug options to streamline your regimen. Discuss any drug changes suggested by the pharmacist with your doctor.

Offer guidance on handling a missed dose: How to handle a missed dose varies from drug to drug. Take notes during the review so that you know what to do if you miss a dose of medication.

Review the cost of your medication: Let your pharmacist know if you have financial concerns. “A pharmacist can help you understand what generics exist in the same drug class,” Winterhalter says. “There may be a more affordable option that accomplishes the same goal.” If so, discuss that option with your doctor.

Prepare you for enrollment in Medicare Part D. According to Winterhalter, Medicare excludes certain products and medications. Pharmacists are familiar with those excluded drugs. They can pinpoint any potential issues with Medicare coverage for your prescriptions.

Preparing for your medication review

To get the most from your medication checkup, it’s important to prepare for the meeting. Take these steps so your pharmacist has all the information needed to perform your medication review:

Make a list of all medications, vitamins, and supplements you take: Include the dosage, how often it’s taken, and the reason your doctor prescribed it. Winterhalter suggests bringing the bottles with you or taking pictures of the labels. That way the pharmacist has all the information.

Note dietary allergies and restrictions: “Some inactive ingredients contain gluten, and capsules may contain gelatin,” Winterhalter says.  “Knowing your restrictions helps guide the pharmacist in suggesting alternate medications.”

Identify your Medicare Part D drug plan, if possible: It’s helpful, but not necessary, if you know which drug plan you’ll be moving to. That way, your pharmacist can be more specific when reviewing your coverage.

Bring in your current pill organizer: If you need help with pill organization, bring what you currently use to the appointment. Seeing how you organize your prescriptions helps the pharmacist make useful suggestions.

Take a notebook or a loved one, or both: Be prepared to take notes during the appointment. Consider bringing a loved one for support. Record the suggestions your pharmacist makes. Then plan to see your doctor soon to discuss any next steps outlined by your pharmacist.

 

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