As researchers develop high tech solutions like smartphone apps, computerized tools and even ingestible devices to help individuals taking multiple medications manage their pills, it becomes increasingly important to not forget the simple stuff.
After all, proper medication safety practices have the potential to help prevent the more than 700,000 visits to hospital emergency departments each year resulting from undesirable drug effects.
“For anyone personally taking or administering numerous medications to others, it’s important to understand what’s being taken, the medication’s purpose and what the appropriate dosage is,” said Sarah Westberg, Pharm.D., associate professor in the University of Minnesota’s College of Pharmacy.
Dr. Westberg advises:
- Meet with a pharmacist. For individuals taking four or more medications or for those seeing multiple physicians, a one-on-one meeting with a pharmacist is recommended. These meetings can help manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. They can also help prevent unwanted side effects and ensure medications are working properly alone and in combination with other pills.
- Make a medication list. Keep an updated list of the medications you are taking with you at all times to help you and others identify potential medication issues. Most hospitals and clinics can provide a new medication list to you every time your prescriptions change.
- Use a pill organizer. A weekly pill organizer can help you keep track of whether you’ve taken a medication. Keeping the bulk of your medications in their original, labeled container, as opposed to mixing pills from different bottles together, can help also serve to help you stay organized.
- Follow temperature recommendations. The vast majority of medications should be stored at room temperature, but be sure to observe any refrigeration requirements. Try to keep all medications out of the warm, humid environment that your bathroom provides.
- Be mindful of expiration dates. After an expiration date, medication may become less effective. Some efficacy may be retained, but it’s best to check with a pharmacist to see if your pill will still work for you.
“Your pharmacist – whether they’re at your clinic or at your local pharmacy – is there to help,” said Westberg. “They have great medication expertise, so don’t be afraid to ask them questions concerning your medications.”