According to a recent Consumer Reports survey, more than half of Americans take at least one prescription medication. However, a poll conducted by the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy showed that the majority of patients aged 50 years or older have never had a medication review. This is significant, as studies repeatedly show that regular medication reviews result in better health outcomes. It is recommended that patients who are taking any medication on a long-term basis should review their medications annually with a pharmacist or primary care physician.
What is a Medication Review?
A medication review is a meeting conducted by a pharmacist or doctor to review the medications a patient is taking. They collect patient information to look for potential medication-related issues like drug interactions, excessive doses, and duplicate medications. According to Clinical Pharmacist Ben Basger, a medication review involves “taking an overview of the whole patient, including their medical history, test results, how they are feeling, what they know about their condition and medications, and what they believe.” During this meeting, a health care expert may recommend changes to a patient’s medication regimen to optimize his or her health.
Who Should Get a Medication Review?
Most patients who take a prescription medication regularly will benefit from a medication review. The following situations may indicate that it is time for you to schedule a medication review with your pharmacist.
You have prescriptions from more than one doctor.1
The more specialty doctors you see, the greater the chance of miscommunication between physicians. This can lead to duplicate prescriptions or harmful drug interactions.
You take over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, dietary supplements, or CBD.1
Although these are not prescription medications, they can still have harmful side effects when paired with certain drugs. You should consult a health care professional before adding additional OTC products to your medication regimen.
You have more than one medication to treat a health problem.1
Sometimes this is necessary for managing a condition. Other times, having multiple medications that treat the same health problem could be a sign that you are taking a drug you don’t need.
You are taking five or more medications.3
This is common if you have a complex medical condition, but more medications mean a greater risk of over-medicating. Additionally, it can be difficult to keep track of an increasing number of medications, so enlisting the assistance of a trained professional can help alleviate the stress of managing your prescriptions.
You have been taking a medication for more than three months.3
This is normal if you are managing a long-term condition like diabetes or high blood pressure. However, if this is not the case, continuing to take the medication may no longer be necessary.
The Benefits of Medication Reviews
Medical studies have repeatedly shown the numerous benefits of medication reviews. Here are ten reasons to review medications regularly.
1. Avoid Dangerous Medication Interactions
Perhaps the most notable benefit of medication reviews is to catch potentially harmful drug interactions. When medications interact, they can make certain drugs less effective or cause negative side effects. Adjusting your medication regimen to decrease the likelihood of drug interactions will help ensure all your prescriptions are working together and achieving the desired outcomes.
2. Eliminate Duplicate Meds & Excessive Doses
Taking multiple medications that do the same thing is often redundant. Removing these from your routine means keeping track of fewer medications and eliminating the likelihood of excessive doses, which can cause negative side effects and health problems. Do not stop taking a prescribed medication without being instructed to do so by your health care professional.
3. Optimize Adherence
Paring down the number of medications you’re taking can lead to a higher rate of medication adherence. Fewer medications often means fewer missed or doubled doses, which ultimately increases positive health outcomes. A study in the Journal of Managed Care & Specialty Pharmacy concludes, "Exposure to face-to-face [medication review] services resulted in improvement of medication adherence. [Medication reviews] should be encouraged by insurers and health plan administrators to increase rates of medication adherence."
4. Stay Informed
During a medication review, patients gain improved knowledge of the medications they are taking. A health care expert will cover what your medicine is for, how long you need to take it, and any other special instructions. As a result, patients experience increased skills and confidence in using their medication. 3
5. Receive Personalized Care
Medication reviews are patient-focused and tailored to the individual. Clinical Pharmacist Ben Basger explains that medication reviews prioritize “patient-centered care where the pharmacist conducting the review can listen and explain medications to people in ways meaningful to them, and on their own terms.” 3 Each individual is unique and has unique health concerns, which is why a medication review takes personal factors into account when discussing the best ways to optimize your therapy.
6. Discuss Health Changes
Medication reviews are an opportunity for patients to discuss changes in their health with a professional. Sometimes these changes are the result of a drug interaction or low medication adherence, which can be resolved during the medication review. However, they could be a sign that a medication is no longer effectively managing your condition, or a new health problem has developed. A medication review can potentially identify the early symptoms of a health issue so it can be treated appropriately.
7. Reduce Costs
Prescription medications can be costly, especially if you are taking several medications at once. If you’re struggling to keep up with the cost of your meds, talk to your pharmacist during your medication review about less expensive alternatives. They may be able to recommend a generic version or less expensive choice. If you are a Medicare Part D recipient, your pharmacist can also help you review prescription drug plans and drug coverage options to help you save money.
8. Med Reviews are Free
Medication reviews are a free service offered to the patients of most independent pharmacies and Medicare Part D plans offer free in-depth medication reviews for enrollees who meet their eligibility criteria.2 Contact your pharmacy to ask about scheduling a free medication review today.
9. Safely Dispose of Unneeded Medications
During your medication review, you may find that you have medications that you no longer need. Your pharmacist or physician can provide you with instructions on how to safely dispose of these medications to keep others safe. The best way to dispose of medications is through a local drug take-back program—you can check here to find a DEA-authorized collector near you. If there are no drug-take back programs near you, flush medications down the sink or toilet that are specifically labeled for disposal by flushing. If your medication does not have instructions to flush, dispose of medications in your household trash by removing them from their original packaging, mixing them with something undesirable like dirt or cat litter, and disposing of the mixture in a container like a zipper storage bag or empty can.
10. Improve Satisfaction and Quality of Life
Patients who have regular medication reviews often experience greater overall satisfaction with their health care. With increased knowledge of their medications, improved clinical outcomes, and individualized attention, these patients feel like valuable participants in their own care. A recent study from PLOS Medicine reported that “a medication review in which the patient interview was focused on the patient’s preferences and goals improved older persons’ self-reported quality of life… and reduced health problems compared to usual care.”
How to Prepare for your Medication Review
To get the most out of your medication review, there are steps you can take to prepare. Brushing up on your medications and health history will ensure that your meeting is as effective as possible.
Create a list of the medications and OTC products you’re taking and their intended purpose.
If you aren’t sure why a medication is prescribed, make a note to ask during the medication review. The National Institute on Aging has a worksheet template to help you track your medications.
Make a note of your symptoms. 8
Are the symptoms your medications are supposed to be treating getting better, worse, or staying the same? When was the last time these symptoms were checked by a doctor? This information will help you and your pharmacist or physician determine if your prescriptions are working and if it is necessary to continue taking them. The National Institute on Aging also has a worksheet template for symptom tracking.
Patients who actively participate in their care often have better overall health outcomes.8 Scheduling your medication review before you are having difficulties managing your medications will help your health care professional catch issues early and make the necessary changes to your medication regimen. It is recommended that patients have a medication review once a year.
Scheduling an annual medication review is one of the best ways to ensure better health outcomes. By regularly talking with a pharmacist or physician about potential drug interactions, improving medication adherence, and health changes or concerns, you can receive personalized care and optimize your medication regimen for your unique needs.