You check in annually with your doctor, your dentist, and even your mechanic, but what about your pharmacist? After all, the average American age 45 and older takes four prescriptions a day. Getting a yearly "medication checkup" with your pharmacist can help you streamline your medication routine, flag potentially harmful medication interactions, and even help you lower your monthly healthcare bills, says Barbara Young, PharmD, MHA, editor of patient medication information at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).
What is a medication checkup?
It's a dedicated time for you to go over all of your prescription and over-the-counter medicines, including dietary and herbal supplements, with your pharmacist. It can be done in person or over the phone, but you'll likely need to set this up ahead of time with your pharmacist.
What are the benefits?
"You want to be comfortable with your medications, both financially and physically. A medication checkup can get you there," says Young. Troubleshooting is a big part of the checkup: Are you taking your medications correctly? Have you noticed any notable, even mild, side effects? Young stresses the importance of identifying physical reactions and potential regimen challenges prior to your checkup.
"For side effects, the pharmacist can look at dosing, possible drug interactions, and complications that may arise from taking the medicine with or without food," she says. "Or, if you are feeling good, it may be time to assess whether or not that medication is even still needed."
To troubleshoot regimen problems, your pharmacist can assist with pill organization or streamlining your schedule, possibly with long-acting medications that decrease how often you take that medication.
Are there other ways this checkup can save me money?
There are several scenarios that can impact the cost of your medication, says Young. Often, there are generics available, or your pharmacist can alert you to rebate offers and other cost savings for which you qualify. Additionally, fluctuating prices can be identified.
Insurance companies regularly make adjustments to their preferred drug lists, says Young, so "patients might want to double-back with their doctor to see if there is a different brand name medicine that will be suitable for their condition and more reasonably priced."
Do I need to bring anything with me?
Yes! The key to a successful medication checkup, according to Young, is keeping a comprehensive list of medicines that you take regularly and as needed. Think hard about every medication you use, including those used on the skin, inhalers, and injectable drugs. Other commonly forgotten medications are over-the-counter remedies and supplements and mail-ordered prescriptions. Young also recommends bringing your medications to the pharmacist in their original containers. If you faithfully visit one pharmacy, they'll have a record of your prescription medicines.
What if I use more than one pharmacy?
If you get your prescriptions from different pharmacies, make the appointment with the pharmacist with whom you have the best rapport (or that's most convenient), but first gather a list of your prescriptions from other pharmacies. Include the drug name, dosage, how often it's taken, the prescribing doctor, and the reason for the medication.