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Improving Health Literacy through Communication

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Medicare Plan D
(Part 3 of 3)

Eric Hals: I love it when a guy opens his wallet or a woman opens her purse and pulls out a sheet of paper with all their drugs and their drug allergies. It’s just so beautiful.

Christina Morgan: Knowing what a customer is taking and what they cannot take helps Registered Pharmacist Eric Hals do his job. He can check a person’s new prescription against their list of medications for possible drug interactions or allergic reactions. He’s also interested in whether customers are taking herbal products because, he says, many herbal products can interact with a blood thinner and a heart medication that a lot of people are on. And pharmacists aren’t the only ones looking for a list of medications.

Dr. Jonathan Hollister: It should be the role of the primary care physician to at each visit to review the medications. 

Morgan: Newark Geriatrician Dr. Jonathan Hollister says older patients tend to be on more medications, and they take them indefinitely.

Hollister: A lot of the older population tend to just take everything at face value. And when they’re told to take a certain medication, they do and it never gets stopped, even when they switch doctors. I’ve found it works much better when they take an active role in their medical care and ask questions and ask why they’re on certain medications

Morgan: Leonora Twitty is a retired nurse who takes an active role in her medical care. That active role sometimes includes challenging the doctor.

Leonora Twitty: There was one medication and he told me, ‘Ms. Twitty, for the first four or five days you’re going to have excruciating diarrhea.’ And I told him, ‘I’m not taking it. We’ll find something else.  OK?’

Morgan: Ms. Twitty not only declined the prescription, she went on to remind the doctor of the possible consequences of the medication’s major side effect.

Twitty: With diarrhea you’re dehydrated, all sorts of things. So let’s find something else that doesn’t cause this many complications. And so he did. And we got along very well.

Morgan: Pharmacist Erika Ragaji has done more than decline a specific prescription. She says, if there is a non-pharmaceutical way of dealing with a health issue, she much prefers that. Ragaji’s own doctor once noted her lipid levels were slightly elevated and suggested a prescription for a statin to help lower her cholesterol level.

Ragaji: I said, “Oh, no. Just give me three months, I’ll take care of this.” So for three months I ate oatmeal for breakfast every morning for breakfast. I went back for my next check-up, had the lipid done again, and it was right on the line perfect. So he looked at me skeptically and he said, “How did you do this?” I said, “Well, I ate oatmeal every day.” He said, “I thought they were just trying to sell more oatmeal.” I said, “No, it works!”

Morgan: Ragaji is not the only pharmacist who would rather avoid prescription drugs. Pharmacists, after all, are the ones who know the drugs and the side effects as well as impact of the medicine on the human body.  But if there is no alternative to a prescription, Columbus resident Eunice Simpson recommends people read all of the printed material that pharmacists package with the drugs, including the usually lengthy parts about allergic reactions and possible side effects.

Eunice Simpson: And I just watch, you know, pay attention to the body after I take them.

Morgan: Simpson also consults her Physicians Desk Reference for additional information on drugs.

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