Safe and effective medicines for all

“Safe and effective medicines for all” is the theme of this year’s World Pharmacists Day, which falls on 25 September 2019.

The president of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) Dominique Jordan says that “Pharmacists use their broad knowledge and unique expertise to ensure that people get the best from their medicines”.

According to the New Zealand Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill – “Medication is the most common intervention in health care.”

So, here are some tips for getting the best from your medicines and the best from your pharmacist.

Tip 1: Always go to the same pharmacy whenever possible. If the specialist or hospital has changed a medicine or a dose, your GP might not know this. If they continue to prescribe the old dose or old medicine, your pharmacist can pick this up when they check your medicine history. If your dentist prescribes an antibiotic that you have previously had a nasty reaction to, but you don’t remember the name (or it was years ago, and you forgot).  This too can be picked up by the pharmacist when they process your prescription.

Every day all over NZ pharmacists phone doctors to clarify what has been written and confirm if a medicine has changed or a change in dose. Pharmacists also notify prescribers when there is a need for a special number or a specialist recommendation so that your medicine can be funded.

Tip 2: The above interventions can take time and it is best not to try and rush the pharmacist. It is better to give your pharmacist time to do your prescription accurately, rather than putting pressure on them to do it quickly.

Tip 3: If you are ever concerned that your medicine looks different than you think it should or different from last time – please ask your pharmacist. There are many times when a patient has thought it looked different but assumed it was a newly funded brand so took the medicine anyway. PHARMAC chooses which brands will be funded and brands of medicine do change from time to time. But if your medicine has changed, and no one has mentioned the change to you, it is certainly worth checking with the pharmacist.

Tip 4: Never share prescribed medicines with someone else:

  • Your medicines might interact with another medicine they are taking
  • They might have a health condition that means they shouldn’t take that medicine at all
  • Your dose may be very different than theirs even if you are on the same medicine
  • The dose of medicine can be affected by: age, kidney function, weight, liver function, whether you drink alcohol and what you have just eaten.
  • Some medicines have high tolerance for taking the wrong dose (e.g. most antibiotics). Whereas some medicines will make you very unwell if you don’t take exactly the correct dose e.g. some heart medicines.
  • Some medicines will be very individual, and your dose may be very different than your friend or partner’s dose e.g. warfarin and some blood pressure medicines.

Tip 5: If you have any questions about your medicine, ask to speak to your pharmacist.

Tip 6: New Zealand Health Quality and Safety Commission have a national medication safety programme that aims to reduce harm caused by medication.

They have a brochure on “Taking your Medicines Safely” where they suggest you:

  • Ask questions (of your pharmacist or doctor) so you learn about your medicine from a reputable source.
  • Make sure you talk to your doctor and pharmacist about any natural remedies you are taking as these may interfere with your prescription medicines.
  • Return unused and unneeded medicines to your pharmacy
  • Before taking the first dose – be sure you know how to take the medicine and be alert for side effects.
  • Keep medicines out of reach of children

This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The information contained in the blog and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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