I’ve come to realize that pharmacists have their areas of expertise as well as doctors. Let me introduce my friend and colleague Dr Steve Leuck who specializes in patient education with respect to prescription drugs in the community setting.
Medications in Your Home By Dr Leuck
The other day I had one of my regular customers call me to get a refill on her Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen. This particular patient has some significant pain issues and picks up a reasonable amount of medication every 30-40 days. After talking with her on the phone for a few moments, we realized that she had filled her prescription only 14 days ago, and here it was, almost empty. I realized we needed to take some time here and figure out what happened.
There are many ways to handle this, however, I like to take some time and “walk around the barn” with the patient to try and figure out what is going on. First of all, this patient has been with since I started practising at this pharmacy over 16 years ago and this is the first time she has ever called in for an early refill on her pain medication. After a short discussion, I am convinced that she is not taking more than is prescribed for her. Next, we talk about those 7-day pillboxes, asking if she fills up pill boxes for the next couple of weeks and perhaps that is where the extra tablets are. She said no, she does not use pillboxes.
She told me that she always keeps her pills in the original container, in an open shoebox, along with all of her other medications. I asked her where she kept the shoe box. She said that she keeps it on the dresser in the hallway just outside her bedroom. The following question got to the root of the situation. I asked her if anyone else has been in her house recently.
She thought about it for a few minutes and talked about her granddaughter coming sometimes, and then she talked about a group of workers she had in her yard the previous week working on her patio. She had let them know that the door was open and they could use the restroom whenever they needed. The dresser in the hallway with the open shoebox of medications is in the direct path to the restroom. Unfortunately, it appears that one of the workers helped themselves to a handful of pain pills as they were either coming or going to the restroom.
I am convinced that this happens much more often than we would like to believe. An invasion of medication privacy and possibly theft of our medications is an issue that we all need to guard against. It is far too common for a guest in your home to step into your restroom, under perfectly reasonable circumstances, and then proceed to open your medicine cabinet and help themselves to whatever lies within.
When people hear of drug theft, the first thing that comes to mind is something illicit involving bad guys and guns. Over the last 15 years at the pharmacy that I am currently working at I have had at least 10, and most likely more, conversations where we figured out that their medications had been stolen from them by either a caregiver, family member, or a guest in their home.
Keep in mind, this does not include the multitude of conversations I have involving people who claim their medications were stolen but also have a long history of their pain medications regularly being stolen, lost, damaged or some such thing on a regular basis. This is a topic to be discussed at a later date.
Please, store your medications in your bedroom. Choose a location that is dry and maintains relatively constant room temperature. For security reasons, keep your medications in a dresser drawer or in your closet so they will not be seen if anyone enters your bedroom. If available, consider a locked box of some kind for your medication storage. Your medications are your private business. Your guests in your home should not be tempted to pick up your prescription bottle so that they can read the name of the medication and help themselves to its contents.
Steve Leuck, Pharm.D.