Need help managing your meds?

OFTEN senior citizens have many pills to take on a regular basis and may end up missing out some pills or taking duplicates of others.

There should be a way to manage their medication efficiently to overcome this problem, while making sure the pills they take all complement each other.

CEO David Mah says Super Pharmacy, which opened in January this year, offers such a service for free.

He laments that the elderly in Malaysia sometimes have a duplication of medication because they go for a checkup, get their medication and just keep taking the same medication without going for a followup visit to the doctor. The duplicates happen when they see another doctor and get a different brand of the same meds.

“They might have two or three medicines for diabetes, which is not normal. We don’t have someone to help them review the medication,” says Mah, who has spent the last 15 years in the pharmacy line – in retail, nursing home, home delivery and even a warehouse type of pharmacy.

Wanting to introduce a medication review system to Malaysians, Super Pharmacy is now offering the service for free.

According to him, senior citizens who want to use the service at Super Pharmacy, will have their weight, height and medical history recorded.

The pharmacy would then record down all the medication they are currently taking. For this, the senior citizens are encouraged to bring along all the medication, herbs and supplements they are taking.

David Mah: 'We check for any duplication and contra drug interaction.'
David Mah: ‘We check for any duplication and contra drug interaction.’

He explains that the pharmacy would also write down the types of supplements and foods they take. This is because if an elderly is on a certain medication, it may be detrimental for them to take certain herbs or fruits, even.

“We check for any duplication and contra drug interaction. For example, grapefruit has a contraindication with certain medication like cholesterol pills. So, we have to take into consideration drug-drug interaction, drug-food interaction, and drug-supplement interaction,” says Mah.

He warns that some herbal solutions might contraindicate with medication – for example chlorophyll which dilutes the blood, should not be taken with any medication that thins the blood. Or, if you’re taking aspirin and also have ginkgo or chlorophyll, you might bleed, so it’s very dangerous to do so.

“Once we have confirmed that all the medication they are taking is suitable and safe, then we will help them by writing down which medication to take in the morning, afternoon and night. Initially we will review every month, then quarterly, then half a year and finally once a year.

“If there is any contraindication among the pills, we will advise the patient to go back to their doctor. It might happen because the patient might go to two or three doctors and normally the doctor might forget to find out what other medication the patient is taking or the patient might even forget they are taking that pill,” says Mah, stressing that the elderly are always advised to stick to one doctor instead of constantly changing doctors.

The data compiled would be entered into Super Pharmacy’s computer system. It would also be listed in a booklet which the elderly can then take along to their doctor or any other pharmacy. This way, even if they forget what medication they are taking, they can still find it in the booklet.

This will benefit many customers who know they are taking medication for an illness, but don’t know or can’t remember the name of the medication.

In addition, each time the elderly person visits Super Pharmacy, the pharmacist would check their blood pressure and glucose level and record it in the booklet.

According to him, medication management in Malaysia has not changed from 10 years ago.

“There is no management at all. My parents’ generation hardly go to the doctor. When they do go and the doctor gives them medication, either they take it for life or they stop taking it on the second day. That’s why I say there is no medication management.

“For an integrated and better managed medication system for the senior citizens, the pharmacists have to help them,” he stresses.

Mah informs that another free service that Super Pharmacy provides is to prepare the elderly person’s weekly pills in their pill boxes.

This way, the pharmacy can also recommend the best times for the seniors to take the various medications and supplements, as some may be more effective when taken in the morning or at night.

The elderly can then buy their medication and supplements monthly instead of quarterly. This is beneficial to the elderly if their doctor decides to change the medication, as there won’t be wastage. However, Mah concedes the price might be a bit higher than buying in bulk, which Malaysians are wont to do. He expects the price difference will not be more than 5% though.

Super Pharmacy, which hopes to be a one-stop health centre, has customers from Johor Baru, Penang, Indonesia, Singapore and Japan. A subsidiary of Symbion International, it offers home delivery within a 15km radius. Beyond that, the orders will be sent by courier. The fee for shipping is RM5 for purchases totalling less than RM100 and free for purchases above RM100.

Super Pharmacy will be coming up with a mobile app soon. Eventually, it will have more services like an eye test, bone test and blood test.

Mah informs that Super Pharmacy will be opening a clinic cum pharmacy by the middle of this year. The company hopes to have about six to eight of these in the Klang Valley by the end of the year.

Pharmacies helping patients manage their medication might be the way forward for Malaysia.

“This is how it is being done in the west. In the end, it benefits the patient,” says Mah.

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