More than half of all Americans have used a prescription medicine in the past 30 days. In fact, the average person uses about four prescriptions daily, in addition to dietary supplements. The number of prescriptions filled each year is rising and is expected to reach 4.57 prescriptions within the next four years, according to Statista. With this much prescription use, Americans should educate themselves to be sure they know about their medications and how to use them safely, says James Ragotzkie, a pharmacist.
Consumers should focus first on learning the basics. This includes the brand names and generics of their medicines, what condition the medication treats, and what its dosage is, says Jim Ragotzkie. Once they know this information, consumers should be sure they know how to take the medication; for example, is it taken with meals, before meals, every day, or only when needed. One of the most significant issues health professionals face is finding a way to ensure patients take their medications as directed, says James Ragotzkie.
Consumers also should know if the medication interacts poorly with foods or any other drugs. They should discuss other medicines they are taking, including herbal supplements, with the prescribing doctor and pharmacist to understand potential reactions. For example, calcium supplements interfere with the absorption of thyroid hormone replacement prescriptions such as levothyroxine, Synthroid, and Unithroid, so patients should refrain from taking calcium within four hours of taking these medications, says Jim Ragotzkie.
Consumers also should ask their doctor or pharmacist about any potential side effects they might experience while taking the medication and what to do if they occur, says James Ragotzkie. They also should be diligent about reading the label every time they take a prescription, even if they take the medicine several times a day. Otherwise, they may accidentally take the wrong medication or give the wrong medication to their child, says Jim Ragotzkie.
Finally, patients should be sure they know how long to take the prescription. Many patients make the mistake of taking antibiotics only until they feel better only to have their symptoms return a few days after they stop taking medicine. Patients should always take the full series of antibiotics, says James Ragotzkie.
James Ragotzkie is a graduate of the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and is a board-certified pharmacist working in Albany.