STOW — Communication is key to good health when it comes to taking medications, one hospital pharmacist says.

Kathryn Corlett, a clinical pharmacist at Western Reserve Hospital, recommends people follow the advice of a national campaign “Talk Before You Take.” Gaps in communications that can cause problems can start when a healthcare provider is writing a prescription for the patient. 

“Do they tell you what it’s for? How often you’re supposed to take it? What the side effects are? There are a lot of places just in that first initial encounter that there could be communication gaps,” Corlett said during a recent “Lunch and Learn” at Stow-Glen Retirement Village that drew approximately 100 people from the community.

Challenges may arise, Corlett said, when the prescription is delivered to the pharmacist either electronically — a method many doctors are using now — or by hand. A handwritten script can pose its own set of issues, Corlett said.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at a handwritten prescription, but those are difficult to read,” she said, to laughter in the audience. “We joke about it, but pharmacists actually have to read that handwriting to make sure you get the right medication,” she added. “I often joke I wish they had a course at pharmacy school that taught us how to read physicians’ handwriting.”

Electronically sending prescriptions is not foolproof, Corlett said, and there is the possibility of errors. Pharmacists have a lot of things to look for to make sure the patient gets the correct medication, she said. Communication gaps can occur between doctor and pharmacist, she added. When the prescription is picked up is the third opportunity for communication, this time between pharmacist and patient.

Joe Schlimm, 84, a retired truck driver, said he is diabetic and takes several medications. “I’ve had two major surgeries — hip replacement and a quadruple bypass.,” said Schlimm who lives on the Silver Lake side of Englewood Drive with his wife, Jeanette. Each day he takes four prescribed pills, two different insulin shots and three or four over-the-counter medicines and vitamins. 

One time Schlimm had a reaction to a medication, he said. Following his heart surgery his doctor prescribed Percocet. “I had six weeks of delusions and hallucinations,” Schlimm said. “It was worse than the surgery. So you never know.”

Jeanette Schlimm, 76, said she takes less medication than her husband, but often wonders about the side effects that are listed in descriptions of medications. “Whenever you read the side effects, you wonder why you’re taking it in the first place,” she said. “The side effects scare you.”

David Smith, 82, said he is on four medications and his wife, Esther, 78, is on eight. He said he once had a reaction to a certain medication and was taken off of it. The couple has lived on Fishcreek Road since last September when they moved here from the city of Springfield.

After hearing Corlett speak on the importance of communication, Jeanette Schlimm said she is going to try to talk more with her doctor and pharmacist. “They have a big responsibility, those pharmacists,” she said.

“Our pharmacy is strictly mail order,” Schlimm said, “but we go to Marc’s and sometimes I talk to their pharmacist.”

Jeanette Schlimm said last year her doctor prescribed her a strong medicine to address pain in her sciatic nerve and a pharmacist at Giant Eagle paid close attention to her case and warned her about the side effects every time she had her prescription refilled.

During her presentation, Corlett offered the following key questions to ask the doctor or pharmacist:

1. What’s the name of the medicine, and what is it for?

2. How and when do I take it, and for how long?

3. What side effects should I expect, and what should I do about them?

4. Should I take this medicine on an empty stomach or with food?

5. Should I avoid any activities, foods, drinks, alcohol or other medicines while taking this prescription?

6. Is it best to take it in the morning or evening?

7. Will this medicine work safely with other medicines I’m taking, including over-the-counter medicines?

8. When should I expect the medicine to begin to work, and how will I know if it’s working?

9. How should I store it?

10. Is there any additional written information I should read about the medicine?

Reporter Steve Wiandt can be reached at 330-541-9420, or @SteveWiandt_RPC.