Recently several of my patients have had problems with medication awareness. One patient was seen at an urgent care center and received a prescription for the same type of drug she was already receiving. Had the prescription been filled, she could have had an overdose of medication. Luckily, the pharmacy noticed the issue and brought it to my attention. The prescription wasn’t filled. 

Another time, a medication that appeared on the medication list in the patient’s chart was not in the record when she was seen at the hospital. When I contacted the pharmacy, it turned out that she hadn’t refilled the prescription, which was an important one. 

The potential for problems grows when patients are seeing multiple physicians or are going in and out of the hospital. For example, some hospitals carry only one brand of medication and switch a patient to that brand while they’re hospitalized. Then they may forget to switch it back when the patient is discharged. 

Updated Medication Lists Are Key 

It’s important to keep an updated list of all your medications, and there are smartphone apps to help you with this. For Apple owners, Medical ID (under “Health”) allows you to store a medication list. For Android owners, Google Play has several apps for medication lists, including one called “ListMeds.” 

If you’re “old school” and prefer to have a written list, just write down medication names, doses, and frequency on a card and carry it with you. You can also use the medication tracker available for free from our Home Delivery pharmacy (ask for one at 1.877.880.7007).

It’s also a good idea to bring all of your medications with you to your annual physical and review them with your doctor.

Expired Medications 

It’s important to get rid of expired medications. Some drugs lose potency after their expiration date and patients taking them may not realize that they aren’t as effective as they originally were. To find out where you can dispose of expired medications, you can use the search tool at

Also, keep in mind that most CVS pharmacies and police departments will take back expired drugs and dispose of them properly. The US Family Health Plan pharmacy runs a report on medications when they’re prescribed to check for drug interactions or duplication of medications. The pharmacists may reach out to the prescribing provider or to the member if they have questions. 

We’ve also implemented a program for some medications that have had a high risk of side effects. With these medications, the pharmacists call members and discuss the importance of adherence, potential side effects, and manufacturer-based clinical resource programs that are available for some drugs. 

Please remember: Medications can be a blessing to patients who require them for their medical conditions, but it’s best to treat them with caution.

Charles Rollinger, MD, Vice President of Medical Management and Quality, US Family Health Plan