Getting the best out of your medicines

If has long been a concern of doctors and pharmacists that between 30-50% of medicines that are prescribed are not taken properly. There are many reasons why this might be the case, but the bottom line is that your medicines are not going to work if you don’t take them!


Since around 15 million people in England currently take medicines for long-term conditions like asthma or high blood pressure that’s a lot of medicines going to waste, and pressure put on the NHS from illnesses which are not being treated effectively.

This is why your pharmacist might ask you if you would like a medicines use review (MUR) next time you go to the pharmacy for your repeat prescription. This is intended to be a short 15 minute conversation to establish that you are taking your medicines properly, help identify any problems you may have such as unexpected side effects, and suggest possible solutions.

It’s good to talk!

Small, practical steps the best way to maintain a healthy weight

Forget the latest diet fad. There’s no “silver bullet” solution to keeping your weight down, says the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Instead it advises that taking small practical steps can help.


Limiting TV time in front of the TV to no more than two hours, walking more, and eating healthily are among the most effective ways of maintaining a healthy weight and preventing excess weight gain, it says.

Maintaining a healthy weight has become increasingly important public health issue in recent years. Over the past 20 years the number of people classed as obese has nearly doubled. Carrying extra weight increases the risk of a range of long-term conditions such as coronary heart disease, liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.

NICE says that weight gain in adulthood is not inevitable. People should build activity into their daily lives, developing routines and habits that gradually increase the amount of their activity. They should also be encouraged to reduce how often they eat energy-dense food and drinks such as fried foods, biscuits, savoury snacks, confectionary and drinks made with full fat milk or cream.

Adjusting your medicines may make them ineffective

Are you someone who takes more than four doses of medicine a day? If so it appears you are more likely to crush tablets or open capsules, potentially reducing their effectiveness, a study has revealed.

Crushed pills

And even more worrying, almost half of those in the study (44%) did not think there would be an issue with crushing or modifying tablets. Most of those who modified their medicines didn’t seek advice from their pharmacist, instead turning to family and friends.

Had they asked their pharmacist they would have got some more sensible advice! Depending on the tablet or capsule, and the type of medicine, modifying the dosage form can lead to reduced effectiveness and increased risk of adverse effects.

For example, many tablets and capsules are film coated to prevent them disintegrating in the acid environment of the stomach, so that the active ingredient can be delivered into the intestine without being destroyed. Crush the tablet, and your medicine won’t be getting through.

If you have trouble taking your medicine talk to your pharmacist because there are often practical steps you can take or alternative preparations available.

Don’t suffer in silence with IBS

April is IBS Awareness month and sufferers are being encouraged not to suffer in silence. IBS – or irritable bowel syndrome – is a common complaint, but difficult to diagnose. Sufferers experience chronic, recurrent bowel problems and abdominal pain. Bowel problems may include constipation, diarrhoea, pain or a combination of all three.

Stomach cramps

IBS is surprisingly common – between 10-20% of people are thought to suffer from the condition. It most often affects people between 20-30 years old and is twice as common in women as in men.

The frequency and severity of IBS symptoms are not predictable and can vary. If it is not managed, the disorder can disrupt many aspects of someone’s life.

While the cause of IBS is not known, it is thought that the symptoms are brought on by a disruption to the interaction between brain, nervous system and gut.

IBS cannot be cured, however once the condition is managed, IBS may cause minimal problems. Self-help – dietary and lifestyle advice – is key to managing the condition, and many of the medicines recommended for managing symptoms can be purchased from your pharmacy.

Speak to your pharmacist if you think you may have IBS. Don’t suffer in silence.

A pharmacy makes for a healthy High Street

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has recent cast its eye over the UK’s high streets. It’s bad news if you live in the North or the Midlands where high streets are more likely to have higher concentrations of businesses which are viewed as harmful to public health.

High Street

Top of the league for places with the unhealthiest retail areas are Preston, Middlesbrough, Coventry and Blackpool. The healthiest high streets can be found in Shrewsbury, Ayr Salisbury and Perth.

The RSPH’s league table ranking 70 of the UK’s major towns and cities forms part of its Health on the High Street campaign, which aims to make high streets healthier by encouraging businesses to take steps to promote health while also giving further powers to local authorities in the areas of planning and licensing.

Based on public and expert opinion, the Society has identified bookmakers, payday loan shops, fast food outlets and tanning salons as having the most negative impact on health.

Pharmacies and leisure centres have the most positive impact on high street public health since they encourage healthy choices; promote social interaction; provide access to health advice and promote positive mental wellbeing.

Find out more at

A shorter life or a pill every day?

Pharmacists generally believe that all older people should take statins on a regular basis to help prevent heart attacks. But when researchers asked patients how many of them would prefer a shorter life without such preventive pills the answer was not what your pharmacist might have expected!

A shorter life or a pill every day?

The participants, averaging around 50 years of age, were asked how much time they would be willing to cut short from the end of their lives by avoiding daily medicine for cardiovascular disease prevention.

While over two thirds of the respondents said they would not be willing to cut short their lives by any number of weeks as a trade-off for avoiding a daily pill, around 1 in 3 were willing to make a trade. Specifically 21% were prepared to trade up to a year from their life, and over 8% were prepared to trade as much as two years.

The measure is about how much the act of taking a pill – obtaining it, remembering to take it and actually taking it – interferes with your quality of life, say the researchers.

Your pharmacist can provide prescription collection and delivery services, and medication aids to help people remember when to take their medicines, so if you are having problems in these areas, ask for help rather than give up!

Are you an office potato? Try a little exercise…

Almost half of women (45%) and two fifths of men (37%) working in offices in the UK spend less than 30 minutes a day walking around at work, according to the ‘On Your Feet Britain’ campaign, which wants to encourage office workers to get off their backsides and improve their cardiovascular health.

Office potato

The campaign kicked off on April 24 with offices being challenged to find inventive ways of getting employees on their feet, by holding walking meetings, getting outside at lunchtime, or simply taking five minutes to stand up and stretch.

A poll of 2,000 UK office workers found over half (52%) regularly eat lunch at their desk and almost a third (31%) sit for so long they even put off going to the toilet!

Almost eight in ten (78%) of those surveyed say they spend too much time sitting down at work and 62% fear this could have a negative impact on their health. They are quite correct. Sedentary behaviour can increase your risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes, as well as dying prematurely from cardiovascular disease.

To sign up to On Your Feet Britain visit

Healthcare on hold until after the general election

The nation’s healthcare, like anything else connected with government, is being put on hold in the run up to the general election in May. Even the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), an independent body that provides guidance to improve health and social care in England, is going ‘off air’.

Healthcare on hold

‘As a Non-Departmental Public Body, NICE must make sure that its conduct and procedures during the general election do not call its impartiality into question,’ it announced rather pompously at the end of March. ‘In order to avoid providing a focus for political debate or detracting attention from the general election campaign, NICE will not publish any guidance during the general election campaign.’

Your local community pharmacy, however, will not be putting up the shutters and will continue to provide impartial and focussed health care advice, and the wide range of health related services you have come to expect. Ask your pharmacist if you need any guidance.

Breastfed babies better prepared for solid food

Babies that are exclusively breastfed are better equipped to move to solid foods and may have fewer stomach troubles in their early years.

Breastfed babies better prepared for solid food

US scientists have found that a baby’s diet during the first few months of life has a huge influence on the gut bacteria that help digest food and destroy disease causing bugs. These factors, in turn, influence the baby’s ability to move from milk to solid foods and may have longer term health effects.

Babies who are fed only breast milk have a gut flora that seems better prepared for the introduction of solid foods. The transition to solids is much more dramatic for babies that are not exclusively breastfed, a situation that could contribute to more stomach aches and conditions like colic.

This study provides support for recommendations by the World Health Organization and others to breastfeed exclusively during the first six months of life.