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What Pill Color Variations Could Mean for Patient Adherence

  • February 27, 2013
  • RPh on the Go

What Pill Color Variations Could Mean for Patient Adherence

The Archives of Internal Medicine published a recent study that found that patients who stopped taking their medication often did so due to variations in pill color and size. Generic medications are the same chemically as their brand name counterparts, but the difference in color or pill shape was often enough to cause patients to not refill or completely stop taking a prescription. Stopping or starting any medication regime can be dangerous for a number of reasons, and here are some tips you can use to ensure patients continue their medication regardless of changes in its appearance.

How your pharmacy can help:

Prepare literature. A flyer or brochure that explains that generic medications may change in color, size, or shape–but are no less effective than their counterparts–is crucial. Instruct all staff members to tell their pharmacy team to inform patients whose medication has been changed, letting them know of the new appearance of their medicine. Keeping up to date on which generic medications vary vastly from their FDA counterparts is one way to stay ahead. Many common drugs for conditions such as epilepsy, cholesterol, and even more common generic antibiotics are subject to change in appearance at the generic level. This is no cause of alarm to customers, and communicating that all medications should be taken as prescribed is crucial to preventing lapses in treatment.

When in doubt, ask.

Patients often have questions and concerns about their medications if they switch to a generic form, or if a change in pharmacy supplier changes the look of their once familiar pill. Ask patients if they have any concerns about their medication if it has indeed changed appearance. Having pharmacy staff be prepared to answer any questions and assuage customer concerns and worries is one step closer to preventing what could turn into a medical emergency. Going over the looks of the new medication with clients can be very important. Explain what the new medication will look like, and that it is still important to take their prescription as directed.

Making patients aware of changes in their medication is just one step a pharmacy can take to ensure that prescriptions continue to be refilled. If a prescription is due for a change due to a doctor prescribing the generic version before the client picks it up, a pharmacy technician can easily call the customer and let them know that their medication has changed appearance or size–but is still the same chemically. It is impossible to know what other factors lead to patients deciding not to refill a medication, but it is important that pharmacies be aware of this and practice preventative measures ahead of time.

What are some ways your pharmacy lets patients know about changes to their prescriptions? Phone calls, patient dialogue at time of pickup, or do you have another tip to provide? Let us know in the comments below.

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