Is it time for a medication review?

Justin Hayde-West
Pharmaceutical Manager at Bupa UK
18 January 2018

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This article is more than three years old. It reflects the best available evidence at the time of publication.

An important part of staying healthy if you have a long-term illness is making sure you’re taking the right medicines, and that you’re using them correctly.

Lots of us need to take medicines either in the short or long term, and it’s natural if you have worries or questions about them. If you have problems with your medicines or questions about them, you can meet with an expert to talk them through. This is called a medication review.

What does a medication review involve?

A medication review is a meeting about your medicines, with an expert such as a pharmacist, doctor or nurse. You can ask for an appointment to do a Medicines Use Review (MUR) at any pharmacy, or you can ask your GP or nurse for one at your next appointment.

Medication in this case doesn’t just mean tablets, it includes inhalers, supplements and herbal remedies you may be taking, as well as creams.

There may be changes you want to suggest, worries that are bothering you or questions that you want answers to. The person you meet with may also have some suggestions about changes to your medicines or have some questions for you. The meeting is confidential so that you can talk openly and your questions or worries will be listened to. The person you see will make some notes during the meeting to keep a record of any issues that you’ve talked about and also to share them with your doctor so that they can look at any suggested changes.

Who should have a medication review?

A review is especially important if you can’t remember the last time you had one. It’s also a good idea if:

  • you’re aged over 75
  • you’re taking regular prescription medicines
  • you have a long-term illness like diabetes, asthma or epilepsy
  • you’re taking medicines prescribed by a hospital
  • you have recently left hospital
  • you have had a big change to your medicine(s)

How should I prepare?

  • Make a list of the medicines you take and how you take them. This includes medicines that haven’t been prescribed by your doctor such as painkillers you buy from a pharmacy or supermarket.
  • Write down your questions and concerns so you don’t forget to ask any that are important to you.
  • Make sure you know when, where and who your appointment is with.
  • Remember that the options you discuss in the review are within your control and that you have to agree to any changes.

Examples of questions you may want to ask:

  • What is this medicine for?
  • How and when should I take it?
  • Are there foods or medicines I shouldn’t take with this?
  • How long will I need to use this medicine?
  • How do I know it is helping me?
  • How can I be sure it’s safe?
  • What are the side-effects and what do I do if I get them?
  • Are there any better alternative medicines?
  • What happens if I stop taking these or lower the dose?
  • Will the medicine build up in my body?
  • Do I really need to take all these medicines?
  • Is there anything that can help to remind me to take my medicines?
  • Can I have easier to open containers?
  • What do I do if I think a mistake has been made with my medicines?

Reviews for long-term prescriptions

It’s really important to have regular reviews for long-term prescriptions. The most recent research has shown that half of people don’t take their medicines as their doctor has prescribed them. And half of those people didn’t realise they weren’t following the instructions correctly. Even if you’ve been on the same medication for some time, a review can be good way to check that it’s still working for you. There might have been changes that could be reducing how well your medicine works, such as:

  • if you’ve started taking new supplements
  • if you have developed other conditions
  • if you’re taking or in need of antibiotics
  • if you’ve started noticing possible side-effects that you didn’t have before

Regularly updating and reviewing your medication, means you can be sure that they are working as they should be. And in some cases, it may be that you no longer need to take medication, or need to reduce or increase the amount you’re taking.

If you or someone you know has an urgent problem with medicines then you should seek help immediately rather than waiting for a medication review. This includes:

  • if you have taken too much of any medicine
  • if you have an allergic reaction to a new medicine (such as wheezing, rash, swelling or fainting)
  • if you notice a serious side-effect or any unusual symptoms
  • if you notice your health quickly getting worse

In any of these instances, talk to a doctor or pharmacist straight away.

More advice about medicines

If you’d like some advice about helping a family member with their medicines, read our article: Helping your loved one with medicines

Even healthy people become unhealthy sometimes. Health insurance can help you get prompt access to the treatment and support you need to help you get back on the road to recovery. Learn more with our useful guide to understanding health insurance

Justin Hayde-West
Justin Hayde-West
Pharmaceutical Manager at Bupa UK

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