The Georgia Association of Physician Assistants provides tips to help ensure medication safety.
Online PR News – 26-March-2010 – – For immediate release
Take Two Aspirin and Call in the Morning: Georgia PAs Prescribe Prescription Advice
(Atlanta, GA) – Almost everyone has to have a medical prescription filled out from time to time – whether we need constant medication to regulate a chronic condition or an antibiotic to treat a temporary illness. The Georgia Association of Physician Assistants applauds the Consumer Federation of the Southeast for their efforts to arm Patients with information they need to ensure medication safety.
“It’s important that patients ask good questions of their providers and pharmacists, and advocate for their own health,” said Darrell Nesbit, PA-C, a physician assistant and GAPA member in Woodstock who is thankful about the efforts to raise awareness on therapeutic substitution. “I recently had a patient that was prescribed a blood thinner, and in a follow-up visit her labs didn’t match previous visits. After learning from the patient about her other side effects, we realized that the medication had been changed without my knowledge.
Drug switching is happening at increasing rates and happens in one of two ways – your insurance company encourages you to change to a more cost-effective medicine, often investigated by prior authorizations, step therapies or high co-pays; or your pharmacist takes an active role in your health management and encourages you to take a different medicine than your doctor ordered.
“That’s not necessarily a bad thing,” said Ben Taylor, PA-C, PhD., and public education chair for GAPA. “But we want patients to feel empowered to have these conversations with both their primary care provider and their pharmacists. If you have a question, you should ask.”
With that in mind, Nesbit and Taylor offer the following advice for prescription safety:
• Read labels carefully. Your medicine was prescribed by your provider, so make sure it has the same name and information – if it’s different, ask your pharmacist why. “Certain generic formulas may be slightly different than the brand name medication, while some brand name medications may not have a generic formula at all,” said Nesbit. “Your pharmacist should know the differences, but if you have any questions it’s important to bring them up.”
• Take as directed. “People often don’t take their prescriptions as told,” said Taylor. “They’ll take a medication on an empty stomach, or at different times of the day.” Taylor explained that your physician assistant and pharmacist will tell you how to take your medication.
• No sharing. Taylor says it’s actually very common for people to share their medication. “If someone has asthma and their friend has asthma, for example, that person may let their friend borrow an inhaler,” he explained. “Medication is prescribed in different strengths for different people. Plus, if your physician assistant did not prescribe a certain medication to you, he may have a reason.” Taylor explained that the person may have an allergy, or may be taking other medications that would interfere with the borrowed medication. “Only take what has been prescribed to you,” he said.
• Stay within the expiration date. If your medicine has expired, Nesbit advises that it is probably no longer good and should be tossed for safety. “There’s a chance that it is still effective, but it’s a chance not worth taking,” he stated. “Call your PA and ask for a refill.”
• Store in a dry, temperature-controlled environment. Surprisingly, your bathroom cabinet is not the best place to store your medicine. “The temperature changes too quickly in that environment, from hot to cool,” Taylor said. “Store it in a dark cabinet in a location that does not experience such extreme changes in temperature.”
Substitutions can be dangerous, which is why Nesbit says it is important to discuss with your provider and pharmacist to make sure you get the correct medication. “Make sure you and your health care provider are doing what is best for you,” he said. Taylor agreed.
“Especially if you take medication regularly, it’s important to work with your pharmacist and health care provider as a team,” Taylor said. “By working together, you’re the one who wins.”
It is the mission of the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants to promote high quality, cost-effective, accessible health care as part of a physician-directed PA/physician team in Georgia. To learn more health tips or how PAs make health care more affordable and accessible in Georgia, please visit GAPA.net and click on “Patients”.