Keep Your Pharmacist in the Loop

When doctors discontinue your prescriptions, your pharmacist is not likely to know

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) When your doctor asks you to stop taking a medication, it’s up to you to make sure your pharmacist knows. New research suggests that some people forget to inform their community pharmacist of changes.

A recent study found that some people were still taking drugs that their doctor had asked them to stop taking. When they kept taking the drug, some had some harmful side effects.

These researchers found that pharmacists were not aware of the change in the doctor’s orders. Electronic systems need to be updated for all changes to a patient's therapy.

"Get to know your pharmacist."

Researchers, led by Adrienne Allen, MD, MPH, with Thomas Sequist, MD, MPH, at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, wanted to see how often pharmacies give out drugs that a doctor had discontinued.

They looked at electronic medical records for 1,218 drugs that the doctor had discontinued – or advised the patient to stop taking. They also looked over 400 medical charts to see if any of those discontinued drugs were related to harmful events for the patients.

They found that 1.5 percent of the discontinued drugs were filled by the pharmacy after the doctor had advised the patient to stop taking the drug.

Of those people who continued to take the drug, 12 percent had a harmful side effect or event in their medical chart that was related to their continued use of that drug.

Some of the harmful events were mild, like nausea. Others were more serious, like blood pressure problems and allergic reactions.

In a recent press release, the authors said that doctors may believe that pharmacies are getting a notice when they discontinue a drug for a patient.

But electronic records don’t work that way.

New prescriptions are sent along, but discontinued drugs are not. So pharmacies may not be aware that a doctor has asked a patient to stop taking a medication.

For now, patients must pay attention to their doctor’s orders and remember which drugs they should be taking. Patients can also tell their pharmacist about any medications that their doctor has discontinued.

This study was published on November 20 in the Annals of Internal Medicine. This study was funded by a National Institutes of Health Institutional National Research Service Award. No conflicts of interest information was provided.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 18, 2012
Last Updated:
November 20, 2012