Should you ask your doctor for a medication review?
According to statistics gathered by the CDC, nearly half of adults in the U.S. take one prescription medication, while nearly a quarter take three or more prescription medications. The numbers are even higher for people who are 65 and older. Eighty-nine percent of people included in a Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll take one prescription medication and 54% of those in this age group take four or more prescription medications.
While many of these medications play an important role in keeping people healthy or managing the symptoms of health issues such as high blood sugar, depression, and asthma, in some cases they can cause serious problems including drug interactions and other adverse events, especially for older people. In fact, 750 older people a day are hospitalized because of serious side effects caused by their medications.
To help ensure the medications you’re taking are appropriate, are the correct dosage for your current age and weight, and will not interact with other prescription and over-the-counter medications you take, ask your primary care doctor to do a medication review. To prepare for your medication review, gather all the prescription medications you take, whether they were prescribed by your primary care physician or a specialist like a cardiologist, pulmonologist, or oncologist. If you don’t want to take the medications to the review, make a list that includes:
- the name of each medication
- how often you take it
- the name of the prescribing physician
If you also take over-the-counter medications and supplements regularly, include these on the list as well.
Questions to ask your doctor
As part of the review, ask your doctor these questions:
- What is the purpose of each medication?
- Am I taking more than one medication to treat the same condition, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, and if so, why?
- Is the dosage appropriate or would a lower dosage offer similar benefits with fewer risks of side effects? If you’ve been taking the medication for a long time or have lost a significant amount of weight, ask if the dosage is still safe and effective for your current age and weight.
- What are the potential side effects of my medications and what should I do if I experience them?
- How and when should my medications be taken and how should they be stored?
- Are there any medications I no longer need to take? In some cases, medications are prescribed when you’re in the hospital or to treat a short term health issue, but the prescription continues to be refilled when it’s no longer needed.
- Are there some medications I could stop taking if I make lifestyle changes that improve my health like losing weight, changing my diet, stress management, or taking part in regular exercise?
- Do any of these medications or supplements interact dangerously with each other or make the medication less effective?
- Is there an effective, safe, lower cost alternative for any of the medications I take?
By being proactive about your medications and learning all you can about their risks and benefits, you can lower your risk of medication errors, side effects, and over-medication.