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Americans Invited to Discuss Medications for Pain and Pain Symptoms with Nation's Pharmacists

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In honor of Pain Awareness Month, the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) encourages patients to have an open discussion with their pharmacist about their pain and the medications they take for pain.


Millions suffer from acute or chronic pain, and the effects of pain place significant strain on the emotional and financial wellbeing of patients and their families. According to a recent Institute of Medicine Report, more than 116 million Americans suffer from chronic pain and pain (acute and chronic) costs society up to $635 billion annually.

There are numerous medication therapies that can be used for treating pain. As medication experts, pharmacists are able to work with patients, their physicians and other healthcare providers to ensure the appropriate medications are used, patients understand how to use these medications and that the best outcomes are being achieved.

A few general guidelines to follow when it comes to pain and pain medications include:

  • Talk with your pharmacist about your symptoms and all the medications you are taking – prescription, over-the-counter and herbal supplements. Your pharmacist can help you select the proper over-the-counter medication based on your pain level, other medications you are taking, and the possibility of drug interactions or side effects. If your pain is severe or warrants a prescription, your pharmacist will refer you to your physician or other healthcare provider.
  • Read product labeling and take the medication exactly as directed. If you have trouble reading the product or prescription label and directions, talk with your pharmacist. They can help you understand your medication instructions and why you must follow them.  If the medication is not working as expected, do not take more medication than directed or self-medicate with another medication. Doing so could cause harmful side effects. Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
  • Your pharmacist can talk to you about the goals and expectations you have for the medication you were prescribed for pain. They can help you understand the medication and how long it will take to work. Your pharmacist can work with your physician and other healthcare providers to help you monitor progress toward your goals.
  • If you are taking a prescription medication for pain, talk with your pharmacist or other healthcare provider before taking additional pain or cough/cold medication. Many prescription and nonprescription pain medications have ingredients that are the same or work the same way and if taken together could result in serious problems.
  • Talk with your pharmacist about the many prescription and over-the-counter medications that contain the pain medication acetaminophen (also known as APAP or Tylenol). Your pharmacist can help you assess how much you are taking and ensure you stay within recommended limits.
  • Your pharmacist can help you understand the possible side effects of the medications you take for pain. Many pain medications cause drowsiness, which can make driving and other activities hazardous. Some pain medications can cause constipation and stomach upset, among other side effects.
  • Do not drink alcohol while taking medications for pain. Alcohol – liquor, beer and wine – and pain medications taken together increase drowsiness, impair ability to drive, and can cause many other harmful effects.
  • Talk with your pharmacist about how to store and dispose of strong pain medicines. Do not hold onto pain medication if you do not use it and do not share medications with others. Make sure to store medications in a location that is safely out-of-reach of others. According to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 5.3 million persons age 12 or older report using pain relievers non-medically in the past year and 70 percent report they got the drug from a friend or relative.
  • Your pharmacist is specially trained in communication and patient education. Your pharmacist is able to discuss your pain medication concerns with you, including fears of side effects, dependence, tolerance, addiction and withdrawal.
  • Some prescription pain medications carry a high risk for addiction and abuse. It is important to talk with your pharmacist, physician and other healthcare providers about your prior use of medications, illicit drugs or alcohol. Even having a family history of addiction/drug abuse can be vitally important when assessing your level of risk.

Pharmacists work with physicians and other health care providers to optimize care, improve medication use and prevent disease. To achieve the best outcomes for their condition, patients should maintain regular visits with all of their health care providers. APhA encourages patients to fill all prescriptions with one pharmacy, get to know their pharmacist on a first name basis, complete an annual medication check-up with their pharmacist, carry an up-to-date medication and vaccination list and share important medical information with each of their health care providers.

About the American Pharmacists Association
The American Pharmacists Association, founded in 1852 as the American Pharmaceutical Association, is a 501 (c)(6) organization, representing more than 62,000 practicing pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, student pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and others interested in advancing the profession. APhA, dedicated to helping all pharmacists improve medication use and advance patient care, is the first-established and largest association of pharmacists in the United States.

SOURCE American Pharmacists Association
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