You and Your Health: Reviewing your medication

Many people need to take prescription medication on a long-term basis to help alleviate symptoms of chronic health conditions. But are we using some medicines for too long?

It can be difficult to keep taking medication over a long period of time, especially if you need several different medicines or have a complex medicine regime.

Prolonged use of medicines can also sometimes mask a larger problem, so it is always recommended you have a medication review at least once every 12 months to discuss any changes to your health or symptoms.

What is a medication review?

This is a free service to NHS patients with long-term health conditions such as asthma, arthritis, diabetes or epilepsy. If you have recently come out of hospital or have had major changes to your medication, then a review will be necessary.

It usually takes place with your community pharmacist who is able to answer any queries or concerns you may have about your medication. You can book an appointment at any time.

Your pharmacist will explore and identify any issues you may be having with prescribed medication including side effects, or any problems regarding ordering, receiving or taking your medication. The pharmacist will also check whether you have been prescribed the right dosage. You may find that you need fewer medicines than before, or to take them less often.

Medicine doesn’t just mean tablets; they will also look at inhalers, liquid medicines, creams and ointments.

Why is a medication review important?

A medication review helps patients understand what the medicines they’re taking do and why they’re taking them. It can prevent future failures of medicines in those patients who may swap or stop taking medication prescribed to them if they feel they’re no longer working or are causing side effects.

Pharmacists are experts in medicines so it is a great opportunity to take advantage of that clinical insight and advice. A pharmacist may give you useful suggestions about when or how to take certain medicines so they do the best job possible.

They can also help reduce wastage of medicines. Unused prescription medication costs the NHS millions of pounds every year.

How can you prepare for a medication review?

Patients often find it helpful to write down a list of all medications they’re taking, what they’re for and how and/or when they’re taking them. Write down how they make you feel afterwards – is it different than normal?

Some common complaints pharmacists receive from medication reviews are that the medicines are hard to swallow, or they have to take various medicines at different times and have trouble remembering which ones to take when.

You may also have a list of specific questions you’d like answering. Sometimes, patients ask about how to know if a medication is working, how does it mix with other medication, or could another medicine do a better job?

If your pharmacist suggests any changes to your medication, these will need to be approved by you and your GP.

Report side effects to Yellow Card

The Yellow Card website is a dedicated site to reporting any suspected side effects from medicines or medical devices. It is run by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to monitor the safety of all healthcare products in the UK to ensure they are acceptably safe for patients and users.