By: Cassandra Stout
Medication interactions are serious business. You could take two medications which counteract each other, which could make you sick enough to end up in the emergency room, or even die. October 21st is National Check Your Meds Day in the US. Making sure that you're safely consuming the right combination of medications is important for everyone who takes them. This is true for any condition, but especially so for those who suffer from mental illnesses like bipolar disorder.
On National Check Your Meds Day, you can take your medications--including prescription drugs, supplements, and over-the-counter medicines--into a pharmacy for a review. You can then ask a pharmacist for advice on medication combinations, and adverse reactions of side effects.
How Will Checking My Meds Help Me?
The purpose of this review is to check whether your medications are interacting properly. If your psychiatrist and rheumatologist both prescribe medications for you and don't talk to each other, then you may end up with two different drugs that don't interact safely. In addition, prescribing drugs in the mental health field is incredibly patchwork and subjective; two psychiatrists looking at the same patient might prescribe a completely different cocktail of medications. And people on your mental health team often don't talk to each other either, unless you insist.
A Consumer Reports study found that, in 2014 alone, nearly 1.3 million people visited an emergency room due to prescription drug interactions or overdose issues, which cost over $200 billion to the people visiting the ER. The steep cost of ER visits is in addition to any costs incurred due to missed work and health insurance changes. The price of medication interactions is substantial.
There is also a human cost. In January of 2000, the Institute of Medicine reported that up to 98,000 deaths occurred from medical errors on a yearly basis. Up to 7,000 of those deaths were due to adverse drug interactions. That doesn't seem like much, but to put this in perspective, keep in mind that 6,000 Americans die annually from workplace injuries.
This problem is easy to mitigate. Any experienced pharmacist will be able to inform you about the side effects are of your medicines, especially if you're taking two or more medications that might contradict each other.
History of National Check Your Meds Day
With the passage of the Durham Humphrey Bill in 1951, all drugs were classified as over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs. In 1988, the US government created the position of "Drug Czar" to help regulate prescription drugs.
After the Consumer Reports study found that so many people were ending up in the ER due to medication interactions, the study's editors collaborated with the US Department of Health and Human Services to create a holiday where people could address this issue. Then, on October 17, 2017, National Check Your Meds Day was born.
Other Services the Pharmacist Can Offer You
Other services the pharmacist can offer when examining your medications include:
- Sometimes, doctors prescribe drugs to manage your side effects when a lifestyle change will control those better or just as well. The pharmacist can suggest ways for you to talk to your doctor about reducing your reliance on prescription drugs.
- Check if your dosages are potentially too high or too low. This advice will not replace a qualified doctor's, but can give you a starting point to talk to your doctor about lowering or raising a dose, or stopping a medication.
- Encourage you to talk to your doctor about refills lasting 30 to 90 days.
Getting your meds reviewed by a pharmacist on Check Your Meds Day is a good idea. If you have medications that don't work with each other, addressing that will safeguard your physical and mental health, and save on costs. Your pharmacist can even advise you on whether you're taking the right prescription drugs and give you ways to talk to your doctors if you want to change your meds. Your pharmacist is there to help you. Call your local pharmacy to see if the business is participating in National Check Your Meds Day, on October 21, 2019.