When it comes to taking prescription drugs, as scary as it sounds, you’re the only one who knows best what you’re taking and how you’re medications are affecting you. Having an up-to-date medication list that outlines what and how you’re taking your medication that you share with your healthcare team such as your doctor, pharmacist, dentist, nurse, specialist and caregivers, like family and friends who help out—will significantly reduce harm when it comes to adverse drug interactions inadvertently happening when medications are accidently mixed together. It will take some effort on your part in making a list of prescription and non-prescription medications but it’s actually the most simple and often overlooked strategy for better health and will prevent injury or harm to you or your loved one.
Why does having an accurate patient shared medication list so important? Based on a medical survey, only about 25% of physicians could easily generate a list of an individual patient’s medications. A systematic review by Dr. Ed Etchells and his colleagues published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found up to two-thirds of the time, there was an error in medications at the time of admission. They also discovered that 41% of these errors were clinically important, and 22% had a potential to cause harm during the patient’s admission. When you combine the fact that two-thirds of seniors are on five or more prescription drugs, often prescribed by different healthcare providers, the cause for concern rises, because of the high opportunity of errors happening. However, there is also the great opportunity to prevent errors by creating an up-to-date medication list to ensure proper patient care.
Other issues that arise begin before patients take medication. In 2014, a study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine by Dr. Robyn Tamblyn and it revealed that 31% of the patients didn’t even fill their prescriptions in the first place. This happens quite frequently in the province of Quebec where they have a generous program of government coverage for medications, especially for lower income people, and you’d think that people with rather severe illnesses, recent hospitalizations, or emergency visits would be more likely to take their medications to prevent getting even sicker—but that’s not often the case.
People with chronic diseases, especially ones that are considered “silent” and we don’t notice many of the symptoms such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol—about 1 out of every 2 people actually discontinue taking their medications after a year. At least 50% of people not taking their medications are missing out on the chance of decreasing their susceptibility of having heart attack or stroke by around 25%. It’s also important to take note that there are some medications, like antidepressants and other examples, where stopping them suddenly is definitely not a good idea. How you are taking your medications can be as important as what you’re taking.
The adherence to taking your prescribed medication is so important because it could be a choice between preventing a heart attack or stroke—and taking the risk of not following what your healthcare provider has prescribed may lead to further complications or even death. The approach to explaining to patients on medication adherence must be explored. It’s not enough to say that: “This medication lowers your blood pressure”. Taking more time to say “I’m prescribing this medication because I want you to decrease your chances of having a stroke or heart attack and go on to explain that, “when your blood pressure is high, your heart has to work harder, and it becomes more bulky and stiff. We don’t want a muscleman for our heart; we want a long distance runner. So by lowering your blood pressure, we make things easier for your heart, and your brain, and your kidneys too.”
The patient’s role in owning up to medication adherence is the first simple step in gathering an accurate and updated medication list. Developing the good practice of asking your local pharmacist for advice and working together in reviewing your medication list is a crucial step in reducing patient harm when it comes to taking multiple medications. Make it easier for yourself by getting all your medication from the same pharmacy. This helps decrease the potential of overprescribing, adverse drug interactions, and so on.