What Medications Do You Take?

Click here for printable form; fill it out for your doctor

FACT: Patients taking more than 3 medications seldom present an accurate list when they see a physician. It is inherently difficult to remember multiple drugs taken at different times for different purposes, and often prescribed by different physicians. Furthermore, there are many items that people don't think of as 'drugs' or 'medicines' but are nonetheless important to know about if used by the patient: for example, oxygen, CPAP, over the counter drugs and herbals. For these reasons most drug lists, presented by or on behalf of patients, are notoriously inaccurate.

  • If the patient presents with a written medication list, that list is usually inaccurate, incomplete and/or out of date. REASON WHY: The list is usually what caregivers have prescribed, or what the patient may or may not have taken at some point, but it almost never accurately reflects what the patient is actually using at the time of the encounter. Also, such lists often omit OTC meds, and items the patient does not consider a medication, such as oxygen and CPAP.

  • If personnel in a doctor’s office or urgent care center or emergency department generate a medication list by asking the patient or a family member, OR by copying labels from numerous bottles brought in with the patient, that list is usually inaccurate, incomplete and/or out of date. REASON WHY: Personnel seldom have the time to obtain a complete and accurate list; they accept drug names at face value, and seldom ask if the patient is actually using the drug and when. Also, these lists often omit drug samples the patient has received, OTC meds, and meds taken by the patient but that were prescribed for someone else.

  • If the patient was recently discharged from a hospital and presents with a list of his/her medications ‘at discharge’, that list is usually inaccurate, incomplete and/or out of date. REASON WHY: The meds usually change by the time the patient sees a physician, in a myriad of ways: prescriptions not filled, meds deleted, meds added, doses dropped, etc. Even if the patient is taking all the meds listed, there may be OTC meds, a relative's meds, or even duplicate meds the patient is taking.

  • If the list is generated from a computerized data base, such as ePrescribe.com or one of the large drug chains, that list is usually inaccurate, incomplete and/or out of date. REASON WHY: Does not include drug samples given to patient, OTC meds, oxygen, CPAP, etc. In addition, if drug list is generated by an insurance payor it will not include self-pay meds. And, it does not include medication changes made by the patient after the list was generated.

WHY IS THIS SO IMPORTANT? With an aging population, and medical care increasingly fragmented, more and more patients are taking more and more meds. Meds have consequences, side effects, expense. Doctors taking care of patients need to know what you -- or your loved one -- is actually taking. NOT what was once prescribed or some some pie-in-the-sky list that doesn’t reflect reality. By knowing what you (or your loved one) is actually taking, physicians can see what the problems are, help determine what drugs may be unnecessary, what can be reduced, etc. A physician may not even know you have a particular problem (because you saw a different doctor for it), but finding a certain drug on your list will be the tip-off. "Oh, Mrs. Jones, I see you're taking Amiodarone [a heart drug for serious cardiac arrhythmia] - since when?" Only at that point does Mrs. Jones think to mention her heart evaluation 2 months earlier, etc.

SOLUTION: The only viable solution is an up to date, accurate list kept by the patient or close relative or care giver, one that is updated every time there is a change. A list of what the patient is actually taking or actually using -- drug name, dose, frequency. Only the patient or someone close to the patient can do this! You may print out and use the form I've included. Either way, prepare an accurate MEDICATION LIST and update it as needed, then bring it with you to EVERY doctor visit. Accuracy and completeness are important. Doctors need to know what medications and other prescribed items you actually use.

Click here for printable form; fill it out for your doctor

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