9 questions you should be asking your pharmacist, but aren’t
People often seem to care more about whether their fast-food order is mixed up than if they get the wrong prescription medication, according to pharmacist Matthew Grissinger, RPh, FISMP, FASCP. They just want to get in and out fast, and never have any questions.
“People aren’t asking questions as it is, that itself has to change,” says Grissinger, the director of error reporting programs at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), a non-profit devoted to preventing medication errors.
But by asking questions – starting in the prescriber’s office – people can help prevent rare but potentially deadly medication errors, and make sure they’re using their medication in the safest and most effective way. In fact, the ISMP calls patients “the last line of defence in preventing medication errors.”
If pharmacists seem too busy to answer questions, that should be a big red flag, says Michael T. Rupp, PhD, FAPhA, a professor of pharmacy.
“Find a pharmacy that is well-organised, well-managed and is adequately staffed for the volume of prescriptions it does,” Dr Rupp says. “It should run like a well-oiled machine and staff should never appear frazzled, frantic or fatigued. Even a competent and conscientious pharmacist is challenged to provide quality care in a flawed practice setting.”
May I speak with the pharmacist?
Whenever you’re prescribed a new medication, ask your physician to confirm the name and strength of the prescription, how and when to take it, and the name of the drug, Grissinger says.
And when you pick up a prescription, always ask to speak with the pharmacist to review how to take the medication. This is a safety check that could save your life, or the life of a family member, as a recent case reported to ISMP illustrates. (Pharmacist should provide or offer to provide counsel to a customer whenever a medicine is supplied.)
One father noticed that the dosage of a seizure medication for his newborn son seemed too high. Because he’d reviewed the dosage and information with the baby’s doctor, he noticed that something wasn’t right.
However, ISMP points out, “had the father talked to the pharmacist when he picked up the filled prescription, the error would likely have been caught in the pharmacy before going home.”
Why am I taking the medication?
You should also ask your doctor why he or she is prescribing the medication, and request that they record the indication on your prescription, Grissinger advises.
And at the pharmacy, always confirm the name of the pills and the reason you are taking them with your pharmacist. For refills, safety experts advise taking a look inside the bottle to see if the tablets look the same as those in the last prescription before accepting the medication.
“If anything does not seem right, speak up, either there in the pharmacy or call back later,” says Rupp. “As someone who does expert witness work in pharmacy malpractice cases, it is distressing to see how often the patient saw something that didn’t seem right but did not mention it to the pharmacist.”
He adds: “That medication that looks different than it did last time might just be a new generic (although the pharmacist should have alerted you if that were the case), but it also might be the wrong medication entirely. If you see something, say something.”
Another thing to keep in mind is that ‘natural’ doesn’t always equal safe. Here are 11 home remedies that will make you worse.