What pharmacists want you to know about your medications

WASHINGTON — Splitting pills can save money, but it’s not appropriate for all medicine — and that concern is on a list of need-to-know advice from area pharmacists.

“We’d like to spread the word to make sure that our patients are aware of how they should take their medications,” said Dr. Sharika Johnson, a clinical pharmacist at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “A lot of pharmacists now have the doctor of pharmacy degree, so we are doctors as well.”

Regarding splitting pills, Johnson said it’s OK if a tablet is scored down the middle.

“But, please, stay away from [splitting] any extended release [pills] and capsules. Please, never cut capsules. We don’t want to disturb the coating,” Johnson said.

Splitting extended or delayed release pills removes the certainty that you’ll receive a proper drug dose at appropriate times.

Other pharmacist recommendations include:

  • Drinking plenty of water when taking pills to make sure they go all the way down. “There are some medications that, if they linger on the esophagus, they could cause some damage,” Johnson said;
  • Getting prescriptions filled by the same pharmacy network, if possible, so pharmacists can track what you take to help avoid inappropriate doses or bad drug interactions. “We can also call the prescriber if anything needs to be changed or reviewed,” Johnson said;
  • Disposing of old medicine. Localities host drug take-back days periodically, but you can do it yourself with this advice: Don’t crush the medicine — mix it with something unpalatable such as dirt, kitty litter or used coffee grounds in a bag or container, then throw it out. Also, make sure to scratch any personal information off the prescription bottle;
  • Avoid taking even over-the-counter drugs if they’re expired. It’s bad enough that they might not work to alleviate your symptoms, but if they’re expired antibiotics, an infection might progress enough to land you in the hospital.

“If you have any questions, make sure you reach out for us — it’s what we’re here for,” said Johnson.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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