Prescription Services

Written by Tara Peris
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In order to ensure the health and safety of patients, prescription services should be oriented toward comprehensive patient education. Building on each person's medical history, such education should cover a broad range of topics, including proper drug titration and storage, as well as common side effects and interactions. Thorough discussion of these topics on a case-by-case basis is the only way to ensure that patients benefit from their medications and are not, in fact, harmed by them.

Every year, hundreds of new drugs gain approval from the FDA and are allowed into widespread use. Although the screening process required to obtain this approval is quite involved, many people--including doctors--remain poorly informed or misinformed about these new drugs. This, in turn, undermines their ability to administer proper prescription services.

Prescription Services 101: Know How a Drug Works
A primary source of difficulty stems from understanding the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics that produce a given drug's effects. Clearly, all doctors master these topics as part of a basic pharmacology course during med school. However, many fail to brush up on them throughout the course of their practice, or to examine them in the context of newly emerging medications. What this means is that doctors may be aware that a new drug is on the market, but have only a very general sense of how it works. One can only imagine where this leaves the patient.

This practice is understandable given the difficult hours that doctors keep and the complicated caseloads they manage. Indeed, most doctors leave thorough drug investigation to the major drug companies, allowing private businesses to conduct the necessary clinical research trials. At the same time, understanding both the methodology and the results of these clinical trials is critical to providing informed prescription services. Whether through grand rounds or morning conferences, it is imperative that doctors stay abreast of clinical research published in major medical journals.

Recently, controversy has swirled around this very topic, as it has become evident that drug companies are selective with regard to the results they choose to disseminate. Specifically, these companies have been accused of publishing only the results that are favorable to their drugs. Clearly, this deceptive practice undermines the scientific integrity of the medical field and hinders doctors' ability to provide safe, effective prescription services.

What to Look for in Prescription Services
Complications such as these underscore the fact that the current landscape of medicine is not especially patient-friendly. The bureaucracy of HMO networks coupled with delayed and inadequate health care reform continues to complicate the matter of even the most basic prescription services. This leaves the burden of proper education to individual doctors and patients.

What should you look for in comprehensive prescription services? There are a few basic topics that should always be covered. First, all proper services begin with a thorough medical history that includes discussion of prior hospitalizations, major illnesses, known drug allergies, and current medications. This history provides the foundation for informed medical decisions.

Once a drug is chosen, patients should be informed of proper dosage, storage procedures, how the drug is stored and what it is used for. They should also be given information on common side effects so that they know what to expect while taking the medicine. Finally, effective prescription services require this information to be conveyed both verbally and via pamphlets that patients can consult at home.

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