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Managing Multiple Medications

The more medicines you take, the more likely you are to experience side effects and interactions or make mistakes. This is true whether your medicines are prescription, over-the-counter or complementary.

Every year more than 140,000 Australians end up in the hospital because of a problem related to their medication. Here is our advice to make sure this isn’t you!


Know what you are taking

Take some time to understand each new medication you take. Talk to your pharmacist when filling a prescription for the first time. Read the labels and instructions.

There is always information available for pharmaceutical products. This information details what the medicine is for, how to take it and potential side effects.  Speak to your pharmacist to ensure the information you have is tailored and relevant to your circumstances.


Use a medication organiser or Webster-pak

Medicine organisers have separate compartments for days of the week and/or times of the day. This enables you to prepare all your medications ahead of time, making it easier to remember to take them and to quickly see if you have already taken them (so you don’t accidentally double dose).

The organisers come in a host of different configurations. Talk to your pharmacist about the right organiser for you.

You can also go one step further and get the pharmacist to organise your medicines for you. A “Webster-pak” is a sealed weekly calendar pack. The pharmacist seals all of your regular medications into blister compartments that are clearly marked with the correct day and time to be taken. 

If you are busy and on the go, there is a new pre-packaged medication option with sealed sachets. Each medicine dose is packed into tear-off “packettes” which you can pop into your purse, wallet or pocket.


Keep a medicines list

It’s a really good idea to create a list of all your medications, including prescription, over-the-counter and natural or herbal remedies. Identify what each medicine is for, how much you are taking, when and how often.

Your list ensures that everyone involved in your health care knows which medicines you are using. As well as being a handy reminder for yourself, it also helps your doctor and pharmacist to check and review your medication and provides vital information in the event of an emergency.

Your pharmacist can prepare a medicines list for you. Just remember to add any non-pharmaceutical medications to the list.


Create an eHealth record

If you are comfortable using newer technologies, it’s a great idea to create an eHealth record. This provides a secure online summary of your health information, and could also house your medicines list. You control what goes into it and who is allowed to access it.

An eHealth record allows all your doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers to view and share your health information, which will improve the overall quality of your health care and medicine management.


Use an App

Many pharmacies now have an app to help you monitor your scripts and medications, remind you to take your medicines and check when you need to see a doctor for a new you script.

MedAdvisor is a great app to download – you can even order your medicines from your preferred pharmacy with just a tap.


Ask your pharmacist for a medicine review

When you are taking multiple medications it makes sense to have a pharmacist review your medicines to ensure you need them all and there are no risks of interactions.

There are a number of government fund medication review programs that you should know about, and take advantage of.

With a Home Medicine Review a pharmacist will come to your home, review all your medications, ensure they are being taken and stored correctly, check that all your medicines (including vitamins) are appropriate together and outline any concerns or problems you should take up with your doctor.

For residents of Aged Care facilities there is a similar program called Residential Medication Management Review (RMMR).

There are also a couple of in-pharmacy medication review programs. Medscheck is for people taking five or more prescription medications. It is similar to the Home Medicine Review, but conducted in the pharmacy rather than in your home.

Diabetes Medscheck is specifically for patient’s with type 2 diabetes and focuses on managing diabetes medications and monitoring devices.

If you or someone you love needs help managing their medications, see your doctor of pharmacist and ask about these medication reviews.


Dispose of unused medicines safely

Under the Return Unwanted Medicines projects, local pharmacies will collect all out-of-date, unwanted and leftover medicines and arrange for them to be disposed of safely in high-temperature incinerators.

This avoids damage to the environment caused by flushing unwanted medicines down a sink or toilet, and ensures old medicines don’t cause harm to people or pets.


Check your medicines regularly

Go through your medicines twice a year, maybe at the same time you change your smoke alarm batteries. Set aside any medications that are past their expiry date or that you no longer need. Take all unwanted or expired medications to your pharmacy for disposal.


The pharmacists at CHC Pharmacy are available at any time to provide assistance with medicine  management. Always feel free to talk to us about your prescriptions and other medications, vitamins or herbal remedies you may be taking. And don’t forget, we can deliver to your home or office on the Coffs Coast for free.

This article was created as part of the Your Health Experts program. We are working with other local health experts to bring you the tips, advice and information you need to lead a healthy life. To make sure you get all this great information subscribe to our monthly mini-mag and follow us on Facebook.

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