Patients unaware of drugs

By Brittany Abeijon

Emily Hernandez, senior in LAS, went to McKinley Health Center last week to resolve what she believed were flu-like symptoms. A McKinley physician told her that she had a virus and needed rest and fluids. After her symptoms worsened, Hernandez returned to McKinley on Wednesday with a severe pain on her left side. She was then prescribed medications to treat a bacterial infection.

Hernandez said if a different physician asked her what she was prescribed, she would not be able to remember exactly what she was taking.

A recent study conducted by researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago surveyed 119 patients in three community health centers and found that once prescribed, 40 percent of patients could not recall what medication they were taking.

“Last week I was given five different medications,” Hernandez said. “It is easy to get them mixed up.”

The Northwestern study also found that for those who have a low ability to read and comprehend health-related material, the number jumped to 60 percent.

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Dr. David Lawrance, medical director of McKinley, said University students are probably as educated as most patients with regard to their medications.

Lawrance added that McKinley expects its physicians to go over what medication is being prescribed, why they prescribed it, how to take it, the side effects and possible drug interactions.

“I can’t know for certain that a patient is taking a particular medication by looking at their chart,” Lawrance said. “I can ask my patient whether they are still taking a particular medication but sometimes they forget to mention one or two.”

McKinley mostly relies on patients for their current medication information, but this can also be obtained through their medication lists, the medications themselves when they bring them in, what the pharmacy has dispensed, or previous medical records.

“A patient who does not know what their medication is frequently isn’t taking it as directed, or else they would know what it is,” Lawrance said.

When a patient does not know what medications they are taking, it is possible that other medications which can cause drug interactions and other problems will be prescribed, Lawrance said.

McKinley is actively trying to overcome the issue of inaccurate accounts of prescription medications.

“We’ve been much more diligent over the past two years to try to get a complete list of medications at each visit and this has helped a lot,” he said. “Encouraging patients to keep an updated list of medications has also been a help.”