Why It’s Best to Occasionally Review Your Medicines With Your Doctor

It's important to confirm if the medicine is still necessary

Contributor: Ronan Factora, MD

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Every person will probably take medicine at some point. As people accumulate medical problems, the number of medicines they take is likely to increase too.

Understanding your treatment is an important aspect of maintaining your overall health and well-being. And there are questions you need to ask your doctor to determine whether the benefits of taking your medicine outweighs the risk of taking it.

RELATED: How Mixing Medicine and Alcohol Can Harm You

The Beers List

In 1997, Dr. James Beers published the work he and his colleagues collaborated on that identified medications they believed likely to cause problems in older patients. The effects included increased sleepiness, confusion, dangerously low blood sugar and blood pressure, confusion and falls.

This “Beer’s List” has undergone several changes over the years. The American Geriatrics Society eventually adapted it. The list is updated on a regular basis; the latest update was released within the last month.

The list includes commonly prescribed medicine for conditions such as depression and anxiety, diabetes, pain, allergies and abnormal blood pressure.

Over time, medications have been added to and removed from this list, reflecting changes in the medical literature. The list will change over time as new medications emerge and published literature documenting their side effects grows.

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RELATED: What Hidden Dangers Are Inside Your Medicine Cabinet?

The need for frequent review

If you’re taking medicine, you should review them frequently with the prescribing physician. This is to confirm they’re still necessary and still doing what they are supposed to do. A review also looks at side effects or interactions with other medicines, and to decide if  safer substitutes are available.

The Beer’s List is meant to address this last detail – whether any current medications be substituted with another, safer option.

Safety concerns include the higher potential of side effects experienced by older adults, and the possibility that these medications may somehow exacerbate or be influenced by the medical problems that an individual has.

For instance, those with kidney problems should avoid certain medications such as ibuprofen and metformin. Ibuprofen and naproxen may also lead to an worsening of heart failure. Psychiatric medications such as citalopram or risperidone may worsen the motor symptoms of an individual with Parkinson’s disease.

Cross-referencing certain medications with a patient’s specific medical conditions should be a part of the medication review.

RELATED: How Older Adults Can Get the Most Benefit From Medical Visits

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Knowing the why

It also benefits the patient to understand why he or she is taking each medication. Often, people take these pills without fully knowing their intention.

Sometimes, due to changes in an individual’s health, medication that they have been taking for a period of time may no longer be necessary. Regular review with a doctor can help identify these opportunities to stop a medicine.

While the role of doctors includes educating those receiving their care, I encourage patients to ask questions about the medicine they’re being prescribed. This approach will contribute to constructive and effective medication reviews and use.

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This post is based on one of a series of articles produced by U.S. News & World Report in association with the medical experts at Cleveland Clinic.

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