Analysis: what steps should those on regular medication take to ensure best results?

Keep a list

Keep a list of your current medications, including the strength and dosage details. Update this list whenever there are any changes to your prescription, and it can be useful to carry this list in your wallet or to store the information on your phone. Be sure to include all medications on the list including inhalers, eye drops and creams.

When attending a new healthcare professional - maybe an out-of-hours GP or dentist for example - make sure that you let them know the details of all the medications you are currently taking. This may influence the choice of any medication that they may give you, as some medication combinations may interact with one another to cause harmful side effects.

At the pharmacy

Try to get your prescriptions dispensed in the same pharmacy so that the pharmacist can check that any new medications are suitable with your existing prescription. Pharmacy computer systems are not linked together and so the pharmacist will not have any details on medications dispensed for you elsewhere.

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If you are on regular prescribed medication always consult with the pharmacist before purchasing any over the counter medications. Again, this is to ensure that they are compatible.

Speak with your pharmacist if you experience any problems with your medications. All pharmacies have a private consultation room that you can use to discuss any concerns that you may have. Consider getting a medication review if you are prescribed multiple medications or have been on them for a long time, but do not stop taking any medications without speaking with your GP first.

If you are struggling with administering your medication (eg eyedrops), ask your pharmacist about possible devices that can assist you. Similarly, if you are having difficulties using an inhaler, have a chat with your pharmacist to see if there are other inhaler types available that may be more suitable for you. If you are admitted to hospital, ask if it is possible to speak to the ward pharmacist about any new medications that you are prescribed and to discuss any concerns you may have about your medications.

Travelling

When travelling always carry your medications in your hand luggage as many medications cannot withstand exposure to low temperatures that occur in the airplane baggage compartment when flying at a high altitude. Consider carrying a copy or photograph of your prescription that way if you lose your medications or run out it will be easier to source an additional supply.

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Emergencies

Consider wearing a medical alert bracelet/chain to alert emergency services of any medical conditions that you have, medications that you are taking, or allergies that you have. 

If you have a supply of medication that you only use on an "if required" basis, such as an adrenaline auto-injector, ensure that you check the date of this regularly and consider putting a note in your calendar or a reminder on your phone to remind you of the impending expiry date.

Older people

Older people are more sensitive to the effects of medications and are more likely to be hospitalised with medication related problems. Check in on older relatives and see if they are having any issues with their medications. If you observe a build-up of medication encourage them to make contact with their pharmacist or GP to discuss any potential problems.


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ