If you take multiple prescriptions, or have started using an oner-the-counter medication or supplement, it’s probably time to check in with your doctor.
Dr. Suzanne Salamon, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, tells Harvard Health that medication checkups should be performed annually and after a hospitalization (this is particularly important for elderly people). Here’s what you’ll want to do, or encourage your parents to do.
Collect all of the medications, vitamins, etc., that you take regularly, and take the physical bottles with you to your next primary care appointment. “A list is not sufficient,” Salamon says. “People leave out medications or don’t record the doses.” You can also take them to your pharmacist.
This is particularly important if multiple doctors have prescribed medication to you or if you’re self-medicating with over-the-counter meds—one doctor may not know how another medication you’re taking will interact with one they prescribe.
“If your regimen is too complicated or confusing, it increases the risk that you will forget to take your medicine (and develop medical problems as a result), take too much of a particular medicine (causing adverse effects), or have a dangerous drug interaction,” notes Harvard Health. “Your doctor may be able to subtract a medication or a supplement to simplify your routine.”
Beyond the health aspects, there’s a financial reason to do this: Your pharmacist or another doctor may be able to tell you that you don’t actually need a certain medication at all, or that there’s a cheaper generic version. Ask about non-drug alternatives and side effects.
“If you’re self-prescribing at the drugstore, or if your doctor has given you a prescription with refills but hasn’t provided clear instructions about how long to take it, you may be taking a pill unnecessarily,” writes Harvard Health. “For example, some medications, like heartburn drugs known as proton-pump inhibitors, are not intended for long-term use.”
Finally, make a new list of your prescriptions and doses, and make sure to update it after every doctor’s visit or change in your regimen.