Understand your prescriptions

Published On: May 21 2012 11:25:55 AM EDT
Updated On: Jun 06 2012 12:40:20 PM EDT

iStock / gblu

(NewsUSA) - To the average patient, visiting a doctor's office can be overwhelming. Patients may encounter several doctors, hear confusing medical jargon and leave with multiple prescriptions for unfamiliar drugs.

Patients who understand the medicines they take, and why, stand a better chance of improving their health and saving money. Pharmacists can play a key role in helping patients achieve these goals.

Each year, the U.S. health care system spends more than $177 billion to treat patients suffering effects from the inappropriate use of medications. Most of these incidents could be avoided if patients better understood their prescriptions.

Mark Brueckl, assistant director of pharmacy affairs at the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP), an organization that promotes sound medication management principles and strategies to improve health care, offers the following tips for patients:

* Review your entire medication history with your doctor and pharmacist. Compile a list of all the drugs that you take, including prescriptions, over-the-counter therapies and dietary supplements. Note any allergies or problems you have had with medications.

* Ask lots of questions. Before filling a prescription, make sure that you understand what your medication is for, including its side effects and potential risks. Talk to your pharmacist about how to take the drug and what could happen if you do not take it correctly.

* Be prepared. Consider bringing a family member to serve as your advocate at both the doctor's office and the pharmacy counter when starting on a new medication. Use your health plan's 800 number to speak with a knowledgeable clinical pharmacist from the comfort of your home.

* Consider the alternatives. If you are experiencing problems with a prescription, ask your doctor or pharmacist if a different medication is available, including lower-cost generics.

* Learn more about your medications. Information is available online from medical references such as WebMD and the medicine's manufacturers. Many health plans and pharmacy benefit managers also offer online resources with clinical and cost information about your drugs.

* Find out if you're eligible for a medication therapy management (MTM) program offered by your health plan. MTM allows pharmacists to review a patient's overall medication therapy and then work with physicians and other providers to improve therapeutic outcomes.

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