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Prescription Confusion

May 8, 2008, 6:00 PM by Jaine Andrews

Prescription Confusion
Have you ever gone into your medicine cabinet, grabbed a prescription bottle only to realize you've forgotten what the pill is for? It happens more often that you'd think, which is why, some leading pharmacy groups are now calling for label changes to end any confusion. 

According to the latest figures, the average American now takes more than a dozen prescription drugs. And while all those medications might not be taken on a daily basis, pharmacy groups say it can still be overwhelming.
Imagine this: Your doctor prescribed you a medication. The pill bottle says: "Take one tablet by mouth twice daily for 7 days." But what are you taking it for? You might easily come up with the answer. But according to one survey, 46% of adults misunderstand at least one prescription label. It's a problem that's been coined, "low health literacy." Bill Ladwig, Vice President of Pharmaceutical Services at Lewis Drug says, "I don't think people take the time to actually read their labels. You need to take time at the pharmacy...ask questions." 

That may be why groups such as the National Association of Pharmacy Boards and United States Pharmacopeia are calling on states to make it mandatory that prescription labels not only clearly say what the medication is and when it should be taken, but also what it's for. Ladwig says, "I think it's a buy-in process, because the more the patient knows, the better it is that the patient's going to understand their medications and be compliant with them."
But some worry putting the purpose of a prescription on the label could violate a patient's privacy. Lad wig says, "But how often do medications...I mean, you should theoretically should have your medications in a secure spot."
Short of a state mandate, there is a simple way to avoid medication confusion: The next time you get a prescription just ask your doctor to include the indication for the drug on the slip.

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