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Multiple Drug Prescriptions

by Matilda Charles

While using a different pharmacy to get a much lower drug cost has one definite benefit, there is also a potential problem: A new pharmacist won’t know you. If you only take one drug prescription to that new pharmacy, they won’t know what other drugs you’re taking. Therein can lie a serious outcome.

It’s called polypharmacy, and it means that we’re taking multiple prescription drugs. Technically, the definition means we’re taking at least five medications, but it doesn’t take five to potentially create a risk. Even taking four drugs comes with an increased risk of falls, for example.

There are several ways this situation can occur. We might be seeing more than one doctor for a condition and be given a prescription by one doctor and another by a different doctor with instruction to keep taking it until the next visit. We might be on a pharmacy auto- refill program that sends us drugs, which we dutifully take. We might see a doctor with a sub-par medical assistant who blithely renews all our prescriptions without asking. The software at the pharmacy’s computer might not be updated or might not even be new enough to pick up drug contraindications and flash an alert on the screen.

We need to take charge!

When you go for a doctor visit, take all your drugs with you in a bag, including any vitamins and over-the-counter drugs you picked up along the way. Line them up on the desk and ask the doctor (not a nurse) to verify that you should be taking all of them.

Remember that when a health care provider treats you, it’s part of their job. At the end of the day, they go home. At the end of the day, you live with the results of what they either do or don’t do.