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Patients Urged to be Aware of Prescription Switching

Four questions consumers can ask their pharmacists

OMAHA, Neb., Feb. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Given the economy, everyone is trying to be smart with their money. When it comes to health care, there's a push by insurers to switch prescriptions written by physicians to less expensive substitutes. But what looks like a favor to consumers may be anything but, according to Dr. Ivan Abdouch, president of the Nebraska Academy of Family Physicians. This switch can have unwanted effects for patients, prolonging illnesses, increasing hospitalizations and prompting other health issues. Consumers have the power to get the medicine they need -- and that their physicians prescribed -- by asking pharmacists these four important questions prepared by Dr. Mark Alberts of Northwestern University.

1) Is this the exact drug my doctor prescribed? Your physician is aware of your medical history and has carefully chosen the medicine she believes is right for you after carefully considering all generic options and branded alternatives.

2) Why are you switching my prescription? Often times it is to keep costs down for insurers who may even be paying the pharmacist a bonus to make the change. Make sure your best interests always come first. Ask your pharmacist to verify the switch medicine has the same benefits and indications as the prescribed medicine. Do not sacrifice the treatment goals you and your physician set during the office visit.

3) Will this switch impact my health? Not all medications have a generic equivalent. A switch may mean you are getting a different medication than your doctor ordered. If this new drug is the right one for you, ask why it wasn't prescribed for you in the first place.

4) Have you notified my doctor of this switch? Nebraska law prevents the switching of medications without the knowledge of your doctor, unless an equivalent generic is available. It is your right to verify this legal protection. If your doctor had wanted to prescribe a different medication, he would have done so.

"There is a reason doctors prescribe the medications they do," says Dr. Abdouch. "By asking these questions, patients can improve their chances of receiving the best -- and most cost-effective -- health care possible."

SOURCE Nebraska Academy of Family Physicians
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