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ISMP Medication Safety Alert


Request a Brown-Bag Check-up

If you have a chronic condition, you may routinely take many different kinds of medications. Often, the dose or times of the medication may need to be adjusted as your health changes. Sometimes, you may also have medications ordered by different doctors, particularly if you visit a number of specialists. These situations can lead to a great deal of confusion when taking medications. As a safety measure, ask to schedule a "brown-bag check-up" with your primary doctor or local pharmacist. A brown-bag check-up is when you gather all of your current medications and over-the-counter products into a "brown-bag" and show them to your doctor or pharmacist so he/she can look for any potential problems.

Schedule your brown-bag appointment in advance so the doctor or pharmacist has allotted enough time for the visit. Remember to take any prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, herbal products or "natural products" you are using.

During the "check-up", the doctor or pharmacist will review all of the medications and products you are currently taking, to see if they are the same as those listed on your medical record or pharmacy profile. They can double check these medications for the correct dosage strength, frequency, or identify if you are using outdated or discontinued medications. These practitioners can also screen the medications and products for potential duplication of therapy or side effects. This is why it is important to include non-prescription products in the bag.

A brown-bag check-up is not only helpful to patients, but is useful for physicians and pharmacists too. This review will help healthcare practitioners know whether you understand how to take the medication, or if you are aware of any special precautions that you may need to know about. This is also a good time for the doctor to discuss with you any special laboratory testing that may be needed with certain drugs. You should be prepared to ask any questions you may have about your medications. Don't be afraid to write them down, so that you do not forget to ask.

Having a single doctor "in charge" or aware of all of the medications and products that you take, is a safe rule. If this is impossible, keep your list of medications and over-the counter products up-to-date, and share this information with every doctor or healthcare provider you visit. Remember to fill all your prescriptions at the same pharmacy or inform your pharmacist of any over-the counter, herbal or mail order prescriptions you are taking so that there is complete oversight of your medications.

Consider making an appointment today for a "brown-bag check-up", or attend this type of sponsored event when offered through your pharmacy, church or senior center.

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