Understanding your Medication Your Pharmacist Can Help!

Feb 19, 2013

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

Many people realize they need to take their medications on a daily basis and they have been told of their importance, but they do not fully understand how their medications work and how they affect the body. Remember it is your medication, so you need to know what you are taking. The Manitoba Institute for Patient Safety (MIPS) works diligently, teaching Manitobans to be health literate. Health literacy is the ability to access, understand, evaluate, and communicate information needed to make healthcare decisions. MIPS also reports approximately 60% of adult Manitobans have low levels of health literacy. Pharmacists share MIPS vision of increasing health literacy and strongly believe a patient needs to understand their medication by being informed about their medication.


By understanding why you take a medication and how a medication works, you can realize the benefits of taking it. People on blood pressure and cholesterol medications may never actually feel the benefit of taking them. However; once explained how they work and how they help the body, a patient can begin to see the importance of taking the medication regularly. For example, you do not feel better by lowering your blood pressure with a daily medication so you may not understand the importance of taking them every day. Taking blood pressure pills occasionally can cause blood pressure spikes, potentially leading to a heart attack. If a pharmacist explains how the medication keeps your blood pressure down and reduces the risk of a heart attack, it may become more significant.


Prescription medications can interact or interfere with other medications. This includes medications in which you do not need a prescription and natural or herbal products. Food, alcoholic beverages and caffeinated beverages can also interact with your prescription medications. Grapefruit always seems to make the news about interactions with common prescription medications. The media seems to get attention by spreading fear, but they often forget to encourage the public to ask their pharmacist about whether their specific medications actually interact. Other examples include certain antibiotics being better absorbed with food, while some work better on an empty stomach. Taking other medications along with common thyroid medications can reduce the effectiveness of the later. Alcohol can mix with certain prescriptions causing extreme illness, while it may reduce the effectiveness of other medications.

Natural health care products are extremely popular in Canada but can often interact with our daily medications. Pharmacists do not discourage their use, unless we feel they are causing harm, so make sure you always tell your health care provider when using vitamins, minerals and supplements. The list of examples can go on, but every medication and every patient is different.


Medication reviews are fancy word for a pharmacist looking over your medications to maximize the potential of them helping you, while limiting and minimizing the potential for harm. A pharmacist will explain your medication while reviewing the effectiveness of them. From a medication review, a pharmacist may determine you are taking medication you may not need. It can also reveal drug interactions. A medication review may determine switching times at which you take your medications may be beneficial. If you are on more than three daily medications a review by your pharmacist is a very good idea.


Pharmacists are required to offer counselling on new medications. When talking with your pharmacist, make sure you determine what the medication is for, how to use it, when to use it and what effects the medication will have on your body. Next time you are at your pharmacy and are asked if you would like a pharmacist to explain and answer questions about your medication, please say yes!


The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.

We now have this and most other articles published in the Parkland Shopper on our Website. Please visit us at www.dcp.ca


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