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When It Comes to Prescription Drugs, Get Smart
Date:11/5/2008

A well-informed consumer will be a healthy one, too

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Getting a prescription filled is such a routine task, most people do it without thinking about it.

And that's potentially a big mistake, according to medical experts -- one that could hamper your treatment or, in some cases, do real harm.

Pharmacists and health-care advocates are urging people to make themselves "medicine smart" by asking questions, keeping track of what medications they are taking, and building a relationship with their family pharmacy.

"Patients definitely don't speak up as much as they should," said Joel Zive, a spokesman for the American Pharmacists Association and owner of Zive Pharmacy in New York City. "Patients need to be their own best friend. They need to advocate for themselves at the prescription counter."

People who don't take the time to learn about their medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, run the risk of misusing them in ways that could damage their health.

For instance, they could suffer a potentially dangerous interaction between two or more drugs, said Ray Bullman, executive vice president of the National Council on Patient Information and Education.

"Although it's a simple question, the related answers are really fairly profound in terms of the expectations of what a consumer can do for themselves, and their roles and responsibilities," Bullman said.

For starters, he suggests that patients keep a detailed list of all the medications they're taking, both prescribed and over-the-counter, and bring that list whenever they visit their doctor or pharmacist.

"We see it as the connection between his [the doctor's] patient and his health-care professionals," Bullman said. "Oftentimes, patients, when they have an office visit, will not have the information available about the medicines they are taking. It is important for their doctor
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