Many patients don’t feel as well informed about their medications as their caregivers consider them to be. A vital research project showed that while healthcare professionals believe 85% of their patients stick closely to their treatment plans, only 56% of patients report the same.

The study covered all forms of treatment, and prescription medications, of course, are an important part of that picture. About medications specifically, 62% of patients say they are not aware of any safety warnings about their prescribed medications.

For more than 30 years, the National Council on Patient Information and Education has celebrated October as National Talk About Your Meds Month (TAYMM) to promote better medicine use and better health outcomes by bridging these gaps in awareness.

Talk Before You Take

For 2016, the theme of the Month is, “Let’s Get in Sync,” and this year spotlights the factor of “polypharmacy,” which is the taking of five or more medications at the same time. With a large proportion of the U.S. population aging, and the increased prevalence of medical specialties, the chance of one patient receiving five or more prescriptions is growing. The hazard of drug interactions and side effects grows with it.

The importance of clear, trusted communication with an internist or family physician is paramount, because drug interactions are complex, and the body’s response to multiple meds needs monitoring by a professional.

Safety in Medicine Use

The National Council on Patient Information and Education has composed 10 Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Provider to prompt better communication during your visit to the doctor. The conversation that results can be the foundation for knowing more and feeling better in your course of treatment.

It’s a great map for understanding the potential side effects of medications, such as which side effects will adjust or go away and which can be expected to be present for as long as you are taking the medication. And it’s an opportunity to clear up any doubts about dosage, timing, and other dimensions of using your medication correctly.

Safety in Medicine Storage

A shocking fact is that 60,000 children every year – imagine four busloads of children per day – arrive at an emergency room because they got into medications that were left within their reach. Making sure that prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications are out of reach of children is a key responsibility that tragically is often overlooked.

Safety in Medicine Disposal

When the useful life of a medication has expired, it’s just as important to dispose of it safely as it was to store it safely while you were taking it. Best practices for getting rid of unused meds include the three steps of 1) mixing them with an unpalatable substance like dirt, coffee grounds, or even kitty litter, 2) sealing them in a container, and 3) disposing with household trash.

There are some dangerous medications, like powerful prescription pain relievers, that should only be returned in an organized take-back program or flushed down the toilet.

A Month Worth Noting

Let October be your own annual reminder to have a better talk with your family physician about the medications you’re taking. He or she will be eager to help you better understand what to expect while taking the medication, how to avoid adverse drug reactions, improve your ability to stick with the regimen prescribed and live a healthier life as a result. And if you don’t have a family physician, then we’d like to help. To schedule an appointment with us, just call us at 843-815-6468.