Dr. Damewood Explains…
I request my patients bring all medications, including prescription, over the counter, herbal, and home remedies, they are using to every visit. Many patients ask why I can’t refer to a list and/or why they have to bring the actual pill bottles, even when they brought them their last visit. All of these are great questions, given the inconvenience of having to gather and remember them all. However, after reviewing medications directly from the pill bottle each visit, it is rare that I don’t find at least one potential problem. But why is this?
Medication Variety and Availability
We have seen an explosion in the number of medications our patients are taking. Our patient population is also becoming older, with more medical problems. The pharmaceutical companies haven’t been far behind this boom in developing new drugs. Pills now come in a bewildering number of shapes and colors, and the individual strengths differ in their presentation, making identification almost impossible. Many of these medications are also now available in generic forms or have been combined with other pills to create even more variety and complexity.
It is not unusual to have patients refill their medications through different pharmacies at different times or use different generics for the same medications. I have actually seen different generic forms of the same medication in the same bottles and the same medication being taken from different pill bottles at the same time. I have even found some patients taking both the generic and brand name form of the same medication together.
There are also many different pills within the same class of medications, and it is not unusual, because of cost and insurance, to have to change medications within the class. This may result in taking too much of a similar medication for the same reason.
Occasionally, instructions on a pill bottle may be misunderstood, making the visit an opportunity to verify proper use.
Multiple Doctors, Multiple Medications
Some patients have more than one doctor involved in their care. Although doctors try to communicate, this can create confusion. Not precisely knowing what medications each patient is taking from all their doctors could make prescribing medications potentially dangerous, due to drug interactions.
Complications and Refills
Having one’s medication bottles at each office visit also allows me to review complications with their medications, and at the same time ensure that refill prescriptions are written, saving the patient and staff unnecessary work.