Have you ever taken over-the-counter drugs for pain or indigestion while you were on prescription medication? Did you ask your doctor or pharmacist if the medicine could be safely combined with your prescription drugs?
Carmen Troje, a pharmacist in Nanaimo, sheds light on combining medications, drug awareness and questions seniors should ask their pharmacist.
"Your pharmacist understands drugs and how they work in the body," says Troje. "He understands how they interact with each other."
Patients are often afraid to reveal their use of alternative therapy to doctors or pharmacists. In fact, Troje says seniors should always feel comfortable consulting their pharmacist, who knows if the painkiller or supplement their clients are taking will work with their prescription medication.
Some non-prescription drugs, when combined with a doctor's prescription, have the potential to alter the strength of prescription medication, creating an additive or reducing effect.
In some cases, non-prescription drugs create a substance that destroys the healing power of prescription medication.
Pharmacists can advise whether a painkiller or a supplement will interfere with prescription medication and if a particular supplement is needed. Proper diet can sometimes replace the role of a supplement.
When filling a doctor's prescription, Troje says it is important to alert the pharmacist of any allergies or special needs you might have so he can confirm there is nothing in the medication that can cause a problem.
"Understanding disease states is the business of the pharmacist," says Troje.
After the medication is dispensed, Troje recommends patients carefully read all the labels, which may include instructions on the time and method of taking medication. The label may also alert patients of any side effects, especially if it's a new medication.
When seniors start a new medication, Troje suggests they have their prescription filled on a one-month trial basis to avoid a wasted supply until they gauge their body's reaction. Side effects should be immediately reported to the pharmacist.
Sometimes, seniors feel that prescriptions are forever. Not necessarily so. In fact, patients should find out from their pharmacist how long they might have to stay on a prescribed medication.
The Provincial Profile keeps a confidential record of every individual taking medication in the province of British Columbia. In order to keep your profile accurate and current, inform your pharmacist of any change in medication. For example, if your doctor has advised you to take only half of the medication you were on, your pharmacist needs to pass this information on to the Provincial Profile.
In addition to records kept by the Provincial Profile, it is necessary for you to know what medication you are taking in case of a hospital visit. Troje advises that seniors carry, in their wallets, a current list of the medication they are on.
Has your doctor prescribed more than one medication for you? Statistically, the greater the number of times a day you have to take your medication, the higher the chance of forgetting to take it. Seniors on multiple medications should ask their pharmacist to suggest an administrative aid to develop a structured routine for taking medication.
Besides monitoring your medication, says Troje, your pharmacist is a good resource for information on room care, diabetes care and a range of other health needs.
Finally, know the drug you are taking and why you are taking it. If you don't remember or understand, ask your pharmacist.