Hey, All. Would you mind looking over this sheet I wrote for the Newbies Guide? This topic came up a while back and I thought it would make a good sheet for the Newbies Guide. I finally finished it today, and though I posted it under our dicsussions, was worried that no one would be able to open it. Please look for clarity, audience, and typos (just fix any typos for me), and post any suggestions, missed content, etc. below. I will change the formatting, including the headings, indentations, bullets before posting to the public page.
With chronic conditions, it isn't uncommon for patients to be prescribed a number of medications. In the medical world, this is called: polypharmacy, and providers have realized the dangers associated with taking multiple medications. Many organizations including insurance companies, hospitals and physcian offices are beginning to take steps to help reduce the potential risks associated with polypharmacy. Below, you will find steps that you as a patient can take to help reduce these risks. Certainly in your time on LwPsA you have heard the phrase, "Be your own best advocate". This is just another step in that process.
Current patient advocacy recommendations include accurate and frequently updated medication lists. It is important to encourage each different provider you see to go over your medications list every time you are in for an appointment. You and they should have an accurate list of your current medications. One of the most common risks as a patient who takes multiple medications is errors in administration including overdosing, underdosing, missed medications, overprescription, and more. Keeping and frequently referring to an accurate medication list can help to prevent some of these errors.
What your list should include:
Medication names (generic and brand), dose (mg, G, mL, etc.), frequency (morning, noon, night, three times per day, twice per day, etc.), condition for which med is prescribed, and prescriber
All over the counter or non-prescription medications, dose, frequency, and reason for taking
All supplements, herbals, vitamins, etc., including the dose, frequency, and reason for taking
ANY allergies, including food allergies, severe side effects, reactions to CT contrast or dyes, skin sensitivities, any unsual reactions
Most pharmacies offer a comprehensive medication review as part of their service to you, the customer. If they do not, find a new pharmacy. In a medication review, the pharmacist reviews all of your medications to ensure that you are on the best dosage, looks for interactions with other medications and duplicate prescriptions from different providers, ensures that you are taking the medication as directed and will often offer options for less expensive, generic medications when available. They will notify the prescriber with any errors and recommendations. This is a great service that should be taken advantage of. It is not unheard of for two providers to prescribe the same medication for the same patient, or for other errors to occur. Medication review can catch errors before they cause harm.
Some insurance companies with also offer a medication review with a licensed pharmacist. If you run into dead-ends with your local pharmacy, this is another avenue to try.
Make your providers and pharmacist speak to you about any new medications. With each new prescription, ask questions about how to best take the medication, any foods to avoid while taking it, the best time of day to take it, any common side effects to look for, or any dangerous side effects to report right away. Ask about drug interactions, and make sure that your over-the-counter and supplements have also been considered. Be sure to update your personal medication list and make sure that your other providers are made aware of the new medication.
Limit Pharmacies and Prescribers
It is easier to limit your pharmacist. Find one who has the time to counsel you when you have medication questions, has reasonable hours, and stick with them. Make sure to get all of your medications filled there if possible. When you go to random pharmacies, there's no way for that pharmacist to help keep track of any potential problems with your other medications. When possible, use your primary care doctor to direct your care and avoid self-referring to specialists. The more doctors you have, the more risk for errors in medications. Of course, there are times when meeting with specialists is called for, and at those times be sure to communicate any med changes with the other doctors who care for you.
Managing all the details of chronic illness can be overwhelming. However, managing polypharmacy is fairly easy, requires little extra time or energy, and any extra effort is well rewarded will additional safety and security.