Check Your Meds Day: What You Need to Know

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October 22, 2018

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More than half of Americans regularly take a prescription medication — about four, on average, according to a survey by Consumer Reports.

In conjunction with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Consumer Reports last year started designating Oct. 21 as “National Check Your Meds Day” to help ensure that consumers are taking the right medications at the proper dosage, while getting rid of expired or unnecessary meds.

Several national chains of pharmacies and many independent ones have agreed to support the campaign beyond Oct. 21, which fell on a Sunday this year. Your pharmacist this week can help review your meds. He or she can remove any prescriptions that have expired, update prescriptions as necessary, and answer consumer questions.

At any time reviewing your medications is always a good idea, but especially so if you have more than one doctor. You should ask your doctor or pharmacist whether any of your medications can lead to potentially harmful drug interactions, and help determine the best time of day to take prescribed meds for a greater effect and fewer side effects.

Many consumers don’t realize that meds can lose their effectiveness if they sit too long in the cabinet beyond the expiration date.

“Medications must be at their most potent level, as determined by their expiration dates, to ensure they will work as they should,” says Paul Gipps, M.D., a geriatrician and internal medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care. “I’ve had patients use expired nitroglycerin tablets for chest pains and have ended up in the ER.”

As many as half of adults in the U.S. are not taking their prescribed medications for serious chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, according to some recent surveys and studies. As many as 33 to 69 percent of all medication-related hospital admissions in the United States may be due to poor medication adherence, which amounts to a cost of $100 billion a year, according to a study published last year in the American Medical Association’s JAMA Internal Medicine.

One factor influencing this trend of non-adherence to prescribed meds: the psychological impact of having to depend on medications for the first time, says Manuel Torres, M.D., a family medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care at Kendall Breeze.

“Sometimes I’ve struggled with patients who are going from not being on any medications to ‘Now I have to take a medication?’ It’s almost like a sign of aging to them and it can really affect someone psychologically,” explains Dr. Torres.

Additionally, having a thorough discussion with your doctor about a medication’s potential side effect is vitally important, he says.

“Just because a side effect is given on that long list of information that you get from your pharmacy, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen to you,” says Dr. Torres.

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