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Do You Know Your Medications?

April is Medication Safety Month at Community Health

Rutland – An important outcome of our recent focus on coronavirus is the increased awareness of how our actions can impact our health in general. While we have become extremely aware of what we touch and how we socialize, a more personal aspect of staying well is knowing and understanding the medications and supplements we take daily.

Stefanie Buffum, PharmD, a pharmacist and manager of Community Health’s Brandon Community Pharmacy, says “Having an updated medication list is a critical first step to taking control of your future health and wellness.”

April is Medication Safety Month, a time to draw attention to the prescriptions that are part of our daily health routines. The Women’s Heart Foundation started Medication Safety Week with the goal of reducing risk through awareness, recommending that awareness begins with maintaining an up to date record of all medications and supplements that you take, including the generic and brand names of the medicines.

Community Health recommends these actions to promote medication safety:

Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet
Discard outdated medicines and old prescriptions. Keep medicines in a safe location away from children and pets. Some pharmacies and police stations have kiosks to dispose of unused and expired medications. The Vermont Department of Health also provides free medication mail-back envelopes. Visit to learn more about medication mail-back envelopes and to find prescription drop-off sites near you. The website also provides information on safe disposal of needles.

Know Your Medicines
Make a list of your medicines and know what each is for. Learn to identify each pill size, shape and color by name. Note times to take, drug action and any side effects. Include in your list over-the-counter medicines, birth control pills, patches and supplements. Your pharmacy and physician may be able to print a medication list for you. Keep the list updated and keep it with you at all times.

Read Medicine Labels Carefully
Take time to look at the precautionary stickers and warnings on the labels of your medications to better understand how to take the medication and the side effects you may experience. Read how to take the medication, noting the dose and frequency. The effectiveness of many medicines is dependent upon taking them at the correct times.

Organize Your Medicines
Managing pills with a medicine organizer box can help you organize your medications and increase compliance. Certain drugs, like chemotherapy agents, should not be kept in a medicine box with other pills. Speak to your pharmacist to find out which medications should be kept in their original containers. Some pharmacies offer a blister packing service. This can be a great option if you take a number of different medications. Take medicines as prescribed. Drugs with time-released action can offer some help with organizing, offering once-a-day dosing.

Transitional Care Awareness
Changes in care (like being moved from one hospital floor to another, being transferred from one care facility to another, being discharged home) all require intense coordination of services and good communication amongst health providers. Share your updated medication list with your health care providers. Ask a family member to be your watchful advocate during a transition process.

Know Your Individual Risk before Starting a New Prescription
When starting a new medication, talk to your physician and pharmacist about the most common and most serious side effects. When picking up your medicines from the pharmacy, double-check all prescriptions for accuracy. If helpful, ask your pharmacist to write the generic and brand name of each drug on the label, as well as what the medicine is for.

Better Communication with Health Professionals is Key
Share information with all your prescribing practitioners and with your pharmacist about every medicine and supplement you are taking. Discuss all risks and benefits with your prescribing practitioner and talk about expected effects and possible side effects. Let your pharmacy know about any over-the-counter medications you take as well as medications you get from other pharmacies. Give your pharmacy a list of your health conditions. This allows your pharmacist to accurately screen your medications for drug-drug and drug-disease interactions. Get all of your medications from one pharmacy if possible.

The next time you visit Brandon Community Pharmacy or a Community Health site, pick up a free Community Health Medication Card, a trifold card that will conveniently fit in a wallet. The Women’s Heart Foundation also provides a downloadable medication record and a medication guide Taking Medications Safely.

Community Health is Vermont’s largest FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center), a network of primary care, pediatric, behavioral health and dental services with offices in Rutland, Brandon, Castleton, West Pawlet and Shoreham. Community Dental offices are located in Rutland and Shoreham, Community Health Pediatrics is in Rutland and Behavioral Health services are available at all of our locations. Community Health Express Care centers, open 7 days a week, are located at the Rutland and Castleton Community Health Centers.

The mission of Community Health (Community Health Centers of the Rutland Region) is to improve the health and wellness of all people in the communities we serve by providing access to excellent medical and dental primary care regardless of any financial consideration.

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