That pharmacist may have to fill 200 prescriptions a day on a 12-hour shift with no breaks or no lunch,” he says.
“Our managed care system doesn’t work very well to protect consumers against drug-induced injuries,” says Sasich. “Consumers must be vigilant about what they’re getting from their pharmacist.”
Start monitoring your medications before you leave your doctor’s office. “Ask your doctor both the brand name and generic name of the drug prescribed, the dosage required and why it’s being given,” counsels Sasich. “When you get the prescription from the pharmacist, read the label to make sure you’ve been given the drug your doctor prescribed and that the dosage is correct.” Also make sure that the pharmacist gives you the FDA-approved package insert or computer printout that outlines information about the drug you’ve been prescribed, dosage directions, adverse reactions and side effects, drug-to-drug interactions and other precautions.
You can also protect yourself by asking your pharmacist about some key points before you head home with your prescription in tow. Here are some suggested questions from the National Council on Patient Information and Education, in Washington, D.C.:
1. What is the name of the medicine and what is it supposed to do?
2. How and when do I take the medication and for how long?
3. What foods, drinks, other medicines or activities should I avoid while taking this medication?
4. Are there any side effects, and what do I do if they occur?
5. Will this prescription work safely with the other prescription and nonprescription medicines I’m taking?
For more information on getting the right medication from your pharmacist, contact the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR). To order a free copy of the brochure Prescription Medicines and You, write to AHCPR Publications Clearinghouse, P.O. Box 8547, Silver Spring, MD 20907, or call 800-358-9295. The National Council on Patient Information and Education offers a free pamphlet, Get the Answers. To order, call 202347-6711.