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What to know about a comprehensive medication review

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How it worksHow it can helpWho are they for?CostSummary
A comprehensive medication review with a pharmacist could reduce costs and prevent medication interactions. If you have health insurance, your plan may cover the cost of a review.
Medically reviewed by Ami Patel PharmD, BCPS
Written by Faye Stewart
Updated on February 26, 2024

If you’re managing multiple prescription tablets, creams, or injections, a medication review will allow you to discuss your medications and dosage schedule.

The review can help identify:

  • potentially dangerous medication interactions
  • side effects related to a medication or dose
  • appropriate medications to replace those that are ineffective
  • medications you may no longer need and could remove

What exactly happens during a comprehensive medication review?

Adult sitting on a chair holding a glass of water and a blister pill pack in the other possibly wondering whether it is time for a comprehensive medical review
Photography by Viktoriya Skorikova/Getty Images

You can have a comprehensive medication review with a pharmacist at your local pharmacy or over the phone. The goal is to make sure the medications you take are right for you and that they’re the best treatments for your specific conditions.

Before your review, list every prescription and nonprescription medication you take, including injectables, patches, inhalers, and refrigerated medications like insulin. You should also include over-the-counter (OTC) medications, herbal remedies, vitamins, and supplements. You can even bring your actual prescription bottles or packaging to in-person appointments.

Other helpful items to bring, if you have them, include:

  • vaccination records
  • results of any tests, such as blood glucose or at-home blood pressure readings
  • any medication recommendations your doctor made at your last appointment

After the review, the pharmacist may contact your doctor to discuss adjusting the dose or frequency of certain medications you take. They may also provide:

  • tips on taking medication correctly
  • recommendations for lifestyle modifications, such as healthy eating or exercising, to help manage chronic conditions
  • a personal medication record that can help you track your dosage

To prepare for your conversation, you may consider other questions to ask your pharmacist. These are useful during a medication review or when collecting medication.

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What can a medication review identify?

Sometimes, your body may change how it processes a medication, or the drugs can affect certain body functions.

For example, if you take a diabetes medication but then experience reduced kidney function, a medication review could find that the dose needs to be updated to account for this change.

Additionally, if you take more than one pill, there may be a combined option that can reduce the number of pills you take. An example is Caudet, a one-pill formulation combining amlodipine and atorvastatin to help manage high blood pressure and high cholesterol together.

A pharmacist can then contact a doctor to discuss amending your medication regimen to suit your needs better.

Alyssa Wozniak, PharmD, a clinical assistant professor at D’Youville School of Pharmacy in Buffalo, NY, told Optum Perks about a person with blood pressure issues who “shared that he often forgot to take his medications.”

“Four of his meds were for the same condition, he said, so it got confusing.” The pharmacist then created a presorted system of medications, packaged with clear instructions.

“At his doctor’s appointment the next week, his blood pressure was at his goal for the first time since we met him,” Wozniak said.

Who is a good candidate for a comprehensive medication review?

Older adults and people with chronic health conditions may benefit from comprehensive medication reviews. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019, almost 72% of doctor visits resulted in a prescription. The CDC also reports that between 2015 and 2018, 66.4% of older adults had taken three or more medications within the previous 30 days.

You may also benefit from a medication review if you:

  • take multiple medications
  • have multiple health conditions (especially if they’re chronic conditions like diabetes, heart failure, or hypertension)
  • take medications that require close monitoring (such as specific blood thinners)
  • have recently had a hospital stay or moved to another care setting, like a nursing home rehabilitation facility
  • get prescriptions or OTC medications from different sources, such as multiple pharmacies or doctors
  • feel you’re experiencing new or worsening side effects from a medication

How much does a medication review cost?

A 60-minute comprehensive medication review may cost around $110. However, many health insurance plans that include medications also allow for reviews. This includes Medicare Part D, the prescription drug part of insurance coverage.

That means your insurance provider may fully cover your review, or you may only have to pay a copayment. A 2020 poll found that 86% of older adults ages 50–80 years were unaware of this potential benefit.

Summary

A comprehensive medication review may save you money. It can also help identify medications you may no longer need to take, for example, if you’re taking multiple medications that do the same thing.

A review can identify less expensive options for specific medications, and it can help you avoid harmful interactions. This can also help you avoid potentially large medical bills.

Pharmacists are an important part of your healthcare team. While conducting a comprehensive medication review, they can answer any questions about your medications and help simplify your medication regimen.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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