Medications are an essential part of the healthcare system. Safety and efficacy of medication largely depends on the patient’s understanding and adherence to his or her medication regimen. To achieve successful outcomes of treatment, it is important for patients to have a good understanding of their medications, and that can be achieved through open communication between patients and healthcare providers.
The National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) is a not-for-profit organization that works to improve this communication. This month marks NCPIE’s 30th annual “Talk about your Medicines Month” (TAYMM). With only 56% of patients reporting very high adherence, communication is crucial. For that reason, the month of October is dedicated to focusing on improved communication about medications in order to optimize care and health outcomes.
The theme of this year’s TAYMM is “Safe use. Safe storage. Safe disposal.” Some talking points and tips for medication safety are listed below.
About 62% of patients/caregivers are unaware of ANY safety warnings about prescribed medications
Do you ask questions when starting a new medication?
- Ask questions about what the medication is for, what the side effects may be, and if there are any side effects that should be reported immediately.
Do you live with anyone that is also taking medications?
- Keeping medications separate for each family member is important to decrease the chance of taking the wrong medications.
Do you know what medications you are taking?
- Sometimes it is difficult for patients to remember all the medications they are taking. Carrying a medication list or medication record is a good way to keep track of medications.
Do you use a medication box?
- Use of a medication box is a good way to determine if a medication dose has been taken to avoid overdoses or missed doses.
- If you don’t use a box, it is important to keep medications in the prescription bottle they were dispensed in, since it reduces light exposure and contains all necessary information. Different medications should never be mixed in the same bottle.
Each year more than 60,000 children have ER visits due to accidental medication use
Where do you keep your medications?
- Medications should be organized so they are easy to keep track of and find in case a loved one needs to find them or gather information, but always out of reach of children.
- Heat and humidity can damage medications, which is why the bathroom “medicine cabinet” is not a good place for storage. Store medications in a place that is cool, dry, and not exposed to too much light – such as a kitchen cabinet.
Are they in a safe place?
- It is important to ensure that medications are kept in a place where they will not be stolen, misplaced or accidentally discarded.
- Controlled substance should be secured to avoid theft or abuse.
Do you take medications in a place with good lighting?
- Taking medications in good lighting will help to make sure the right medication is being taken. Taking medication in the dark should always be avoided to avoid mistakes
Medications, like food, go bad and should not be used after their indicated expiration date
Do you have left over medications that you no longer need?
- Leftover or expired medications should be discarded to avoid self-treatment or accidental use.
- Utilize drug take back programs when possible. If there are no programs in your area, medications can be disposed of by mixing unneeded medications with an undesirable substance (such as kitty litter or coffee grounds) in an impermeable container and discarding in the trash
- Medications should not be flushed unless specifically noted by the medication labeling (such as fentanyl patches)
For more information visit: http://www.talkaboutrx.org/rxmonth2015.jsp
This article was written by Ali Watson, Pharm.D. at CapitalCare Medical Group in October 2015