“I don’t need to be counseled on my medication—I’ve been taking this drug for years.” As a pharmacist, I’ve had plenty of patients get upset when I counseled them as they picked up a medication they’ve already been taking or have taken in the past.
And I get it. If you’ve been using the same medication a long time, it makes sense that you probably have a good idea how the medication affects your body. It’s kind of like driving the same car every day. You build a relationship with the car and understand the way it handles and sounds. But keeping your car running in peak condition requires maintenance – and so does your knowledge about your prescription.
By law, pharmacists are required to offer to counsel patients on all prescriptions, including those you’ve been taking for a long time. Here are a few good reasons why you should take them up on it:
Review the instructions. Getting a refresher on your medication instructions can ensure that you’re still taking it correctly. Taking medications is part of your daily routine, and with any routine, it’s easy to become comfortable once you slip into it. Over time, that comfort means that you may begin to overlook or forget certain little details. Sure, you might remember to take your thyroid medication first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, but over time, you might start drinking milk or juice with your thyroid medication because you inadvertently forgot that you should only take it with water.
Talk about side effects. In another scenario, perhaps you never had side effects when you first started taking the medication, but now you do. Sometimes this happens because our bodies change as we get older, so they process medications in a different way. Other times, this may happen because the effects of certain medications build up over time. For example, one side effect of a class of medications called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), taken for heartburn, is that they can deplete your vitamin B12 levels. Low B12 generally isn’t a problem if you’re taking the PPI for a few days or weeks. But if you’re on a PPI for months or years, your risk for B12 deficiency skyrockets.
Check for errors. Counseling on any prescription—new or old—is the last chance to check for any potential errors or problems before you leave the pharmacy. I’ve seen amazing things happen at the consultation window. Sometimes, the patient shares a small detail that sheds important light on their situation and changes the information we need to give them.
So the next time you’re tempted to skip stopping by the consultation window after you get your old prescription renewed, give us a chance. Sparing just a few minutes of your time could make a world of difference with your health.