From the Ontario College of Pharmacists comes some advice on how to make best use of your pharmacist.
1. Make your pharmacist your most reliable source for information about medications
No other health professional possesses the unique body of knowledge that pharmacists draw upon to monitor and manage drug therapy. As highly trained professionals, pharmacists maintain a lifelong learning program to understand and remain current on all drugs. Rely on them as your primary source for information that can help you decide what is best for you. And, as a patient, you can also choose to give your pharmacist permission to provide your personal information to other members of your health care team.
2. Let your pharmacist know if you find it hard to remember to take your medications
Some medicines have complicated directions, and we all have had times when we forget to take our prescriptions as directed. Talk to your pharmacist if you find this happening. They can give you helpful advice on how to stick to your medication plan.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask more questions
Be sure that you have asked the necessary questions to understand all the information to take your medication properly. As a rule, you should know the following things for every medicine you take:
What is the name of your medicine and what is it used to treat
When and how often you should take the medicine
How long you should be taking your medicine
What you should do if you forget to take the medicine
When and if you should notice the medicine taking effect (i.e. outcome)
What, if any, special instructions there are for taking the medicine (such as food, drink or medicine container instructions)
What side effects can occur in taking the medicine and how you can recognize the warning signs of certain adverse symptoms or dangerous side effects
What to do if you experience any problems in taking the medicine
How to store the medicine
4. Talk to your pharmacist
Remember, you can call the pharmacy at any time, should you have any questions or concerns about your medication or its effectiveness. And, if need be, your pharmacist may intervene to ensure the effectiveness of your medication.
5. Take all medications exactly as prescribed
Most medicines have to be taken exactly as directed by your pharmacist for them to have the proper effect. Be sure that you understand all instructions before you take your medicine, and ask your pharmacist for more information or a demonstration in taking the medicine if you have any doubts. If you notice side-effects or feel sick from taking the medicine, call your pharmacist or physician immediately for advice.
6. Ask for a list of your medications
To keep track of your prescribed medications, your pharmacist can provide you with a comprehensive review of all prescribed drugs and dosage. This is also helpful if you are caring for an elderly parent, helping them to monitor their health needs and requirements. And, if you know that you will be going to a hospital for care, take this list to your hospital pharmacist when you are admitted so they too can be informed of your medications. Similarly, when you leave the hospital, ask that pharmacist to provide you with a list of any new or changed medications that you started in the hospital, so you can share this with your community pharmacist when you return home.
7. Get advice before you mix two or more prescription or non-prescription medicines or herbal products
There are many possible dangerous interactions between prescription, non-prescription and herbal products. Dangerous interactions can occur with common foods, and interactions are not restricted to just mixing prescriptions medicines.
8. Make sure you feel comfortable taking your medicine
Your health depends on you taking your medication properly. Make sure you understand what the medicine is for and why you are taking it. If you don’t feel that you will be able to take the medicine as prescribed, talk to your pharmacist.
9. Ask if you want privacy
Many pharmacies now have private counselling areas. If not, ask your pharmacist to schedule a time that you can talk in private about your care.
10. Don’t alter or stop taking your medicine
Many people decide to stop taking their medication because they either think it is “not working”, causing an allergic reaction, or interacting with another medicine. Stopping your medication suddenly can cause serious side effects. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor first (unless they had previously advised you to stop if certain things occurred with your medicine or health).
11. Find out how you can order your refills to avoid interruption
With many medicines used to treat ongoing conditions (such as heart, asthma or diabetes medications) it is important that you get your refills in advance, to avoid any interruptions in taking the medicine. In some cases your pharmacist may be able to authorize a refill of your prescription. In other cases your doctor will need to be contacted. It’s best to anticipate this need, and order your refill a few days in advance.
12. Stay with one pharmacist or one pharmacy
Staying with one pharmacist or shopping at one pharmacy is the best way for you and your pharmacist to keep track of your care. Your prescription records and history are maintained in the pharmacy where the medications are filled, and cannot be accessed by other pharmacies. This way, your pharmacist can better understand your prescription history and identify possible drug interactions or allergies with any new prescriptions, medicines or herbal products that you purchase at that pharmacy.