Message for Health Care Professionals: “The 3R's for Safe Medicine Use”

Welcome to the 20th annual observance of the National Council on Patient Information and Education’s “Talk About Prescriptions” Month. This year’s theme focuses on the 3Rs for Safe Medicine Use. The 3Rs are RISK, RESPECT, and RESPONSIBILITY. For nearly 25 years, NCPIE has encouraged consumers and patients to ask questions and “get the answers” about their medicines; and we have been suggesting that health care professionals “give the answers.” Such two-way communication—at the point of prescribing and dispensing of medicines—is vital to promoting patients’ ability to get the full benefit from their medicine, while using it safely and appropriately. In fact, the American Medical Association (AMA), with input from NCPIE, developed guidelines for physicians for counseling patients about prescription medications, which NCPIE is pleased to share.

Today’s technologically-advanced health care practices are implementing computerized patient medical records, electronic prescribing, and reaching no further than their personal digital assistants for up-to-date drug information. Still, for many patients and their caregivers, old-fashioned talking is their best safety practice when medicines are part of their treatment regimen.

What’s a great starting point for talking about medicines? The first step is anticipating in advance patients' concerns and questions about medicines, and in some cases, a reluctance to ask questions. A suggestion—use every opportunity to ensure that the patient understands how to use each medicine safely and appropriately. Also, the consumer medicine information (CMI) leaflet that is printed out at the pharmacy and provided to patient with their prescription medicine is another opportunity to “Talk About Prescriptions.” According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, nine out of 10 consumers receive a CMI leaflet with their medicines. Be sure to reinforce the useful information on the CMI, including, instructions for use, warnings, precautions and what to do about side effects.

As part of “Talk About Prescriptions” Month, be sure to remind patients and caregivers about the value of the CMI leaflet information. Once patients leave your office and the pharmacy, understanding the importance of reading and referring regularly to the CMI information may make the difference between using a medicine safely or, for example, experiencing an avoidable or manageable side effect.

Remember the 3Rs for Safe Medicine Use. Patients look to you for help in understanding how to use medicines correctly—to avoid harm and to get the most value from their medicine. Good information—whether oral or written—is good medicine. That’s a message worth remembering during “Talk About Prescriptions” Month, and all year round.

“Talk About Your Medicines” Month