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The importance of an end-of-year medicine review

By Rebecca Rovenstine


Each year, the use of prescription medication grows in the United States. In 2018 alone, a reported 5.8 billion prescriptions were filled. That equates to the average person taking 17.6 different prescriptions per year, and this amount is even higher for the elderly population. Due to the rise of prescription drug use, it is more important than ever to have an annual medication review. 

What is a medication review?

A medication review is when a medical professional takes a thorough look at all the medications a person is taking to ensure they are receiving the best medical treatment. For the review, the provider will confirm dosages, possible interactions, and that the drugs are doing what they need to do. A review can be performed at any time of year, but to make it easier to remember, it can be helpful to schedule at the end of December each year. 


So, what exactly happens during a medication review? There is no specific outline for how a medicine review is performed, but the first step is making sure your medications list is complete. The provider reviewing your list will go over your prescribed drugs, but also non-prescribed drugs including: supplements, herbal medicines, vitamins, and over-the-counter medicines. All of these can have interactions with your prescriptions. 


At the review, you will be asked a series of questions. Again, every review will look different, but here’s what you may expect to answer and learn: 


  • Efficacy: The medical professional reviewing your medication list will ask how well your medications are working for you. This may include questions about how you feel when taking your medicines and if you feel that they are working as prescribed. 

  • Medication directions and adherence: Not properly following the directions of prescribed and non-prescribed medicines make medication less effective. That’s why you will be asked how you are taking your medicine. This includes questions like how many times a day are you taking your pills, what is the dosage you take, and if you are skipping refills or not taking them as frequently as prescribed.

  • Side effects: Any side effects you may be experiencing will also be discussed. Your doctor or pharmacist may ask you about specific side effects associated with your prescriptions. 

  • Monitoring: A healthcare provider can run tests or require blood work, such as checking potassium levels, to make sure you still need certain prescriptions.

  • Refills and adjustments: This review is a good time to discuss any refills you may need or if you are getting low on any medications. Adjustments on dosages or trying a different brand may also be reviewed, especially if there is a new and improved drug on the market.

  • Pricing: Another thing that can potentially be discussed is the cost of your medications. If you feel that your pharmacy bill is too high, you could talk about trying cheaper options or your pharmacist can possibly help you find money-saving coupons.

Who can do an end-of-year medicine review? 

A pharmacist or physician can help you with the review of all your prescribed drugs, over-the-counter medicines, and supplements. Simply call them up and make an appointment! It’s worth it: Pharmacist reviews have been found to lower prescription costs and decrease the number of repeat prescriptions. And physician-lead reviews have been found to improve the use of medicine and a reduction of falls in older populations. 


For your safety and to ensure you’re getting the medical help you need, make sure to get annual medicine reviews. As an added bonus, these reviews are often covered by insurance. 


Many of us are looking forward to 2021 for a number of reasons, make sure that you’re putting your health first for the new year!

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