By Trisha LaPointe, Pharm.D., BCPS, Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Boston
Take a glance inside your bathroom medicine cabinet. What did you find? A full bottle of that heart medication your doctor told you to stop taking? A few leftover pills of your pain medication you received for your tooth extraction? Other prescription vials from who knows how long ago? More
By Lori C. Dupree, Pharm.D., BCPS, President of Clincomm Consulting, LLC, Lexington, S.C.
The treatment of high cholesterol has improved care for many people. Most people who have diabetes or those who have had a stroke or heart attack benefit from lower cholesterol levels. More
By Jacqueline L. Olin, M.S., Pharm.D., BCPS, CPP, CDE, is associate professor of pharmacy, Wingate University School of Pharmacy, Wingate, N.C.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of every three American adults has high blood pressure (HBP), or hypertension. This means that it is very likely that you or someone you know has HBP. More
By Susan Flaker, Pharm.D., Inpatient Pharmacy Supervisor, Barnes Jewish Hospital, St. Louis Mo.
Over the last few years, more and more stories have appeared in the news regarding compounded medications. Recently, the New England Compounding Center (NECC) came under scrutiny after more than 400 patients who received a medication from NECC contracted fungal meningitis. At the time of this post, 31 people had died from the infection. More
By Cynthia Reilly, B.S. Pharm., Director of the Practice Development Division for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
Warfarin is a commonly prescribed anticoagulant (blood thinner). It is used to prevent clots caused by an abnormal heart rhythm, after a heart attack or stroke, or... More
By Lakesha Butler, Pharm.D., BCPS, Clinical Assistant Professor, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Pharmacy
Medications are not the only means of improving your health. Simple lifestyle changes can have a measurable, positive effect on your health. More
By Melissa Ortega, Pharm.D. candidate 2010, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Have you noticed how many shelves at your local drugstore are taken up these days by vitamins and herbal supplements? More
Using PRN or “As Needed” Medicines Safely
By Christina E. DeRemer, Pharm.D., BCPS, Primary Care Clinical Pharmacist & Medicine Team Supervisor, Pharmacy Residency Program Coordinator, Georgia Regents Health System, Augusta
Some medications come with specific instructions for use every day, such as “Take 1 tablet by mouth every 8 hours.”
However, other medications are only used when needed for a specific situation, such as intermittent chest pain, the common cold, allergies, constipation, or pain. Some of these medicines are prescribed for you by your physician while others can be purchased at your local pharmacy.
Medicines that are taken “as needed” are known as “PRN” medicines. “PRN” is a Latin term that stands for “pro re nata,” which means “as the thing is needed.”
It’s important to know the difference between daily and “as needed” medicines. When you look at your list of medicines, do you know which ones are supposed to be taken every day and which ones can be taken every once in a while to treat certain symptoms?
For example, you may not feel that your blood pressure or diabetes medication is helping you every day. However, these medications are only effective if taken every day.
If you are prescribed a medicine to take “only as needed,” the pharmacist should provide you with clear instructions about how and when to take it. These instructions should include the following information:
- How much medicine you can take in a set period of time. For example, many people take nitroglycerin tablets that melt under the tongue for chest pain. But if you use three doses in 15 minutes and symptoms don’t go away, you should seek immediate medical attention.
- When to take your PRN medication. For example, you may have been diagnosed with heart failure and your physician has instructed you to weigh yourself daily. As-needed “water” pills should only be taken if your scale shows a 3-lb. weight gain in 24 hours.
- When to take scheduled and PRN medications for a single health problem. For example, if you recently had surgery for chronic hip and knee pain, your doctor may have added some as-needed pain medications to your prescription medications for pain. It’s important to know what order to take these in and how long to wait between doses.
It’s always a good idea to discuss any medication questions you have with your pharmacist. That’s because many as-needed medicines contain similar ingredients. For example, acetaminophen is contained as an ingredient in many prescription and non-prescription medicines. If you take several of these medicines together, these products could result in an overdose of that ingredient. It’s important that you read the label carefully.
PRN or as-needed medicines are an important part of the therapies that people take to manage different health conditions. To make sure that you take your medicines safely, always ask your pharmacist if you have a question.
The views expressed in “Pharmacist’s Journal” do not necessarily represent the views of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.