Clear communication: Pharmacists pick up where doctors leave off

NCPIE’s Talk Before You Take campaign launched earlier this year

A recent article published in the Washington Post, “The Risky Business of Taking Antibiotics, highlighted the story of a patient named Barbara Odanaka, who experienced fluoroquinolone toxicity after being prescribed an antibiotic called levofloxacin while she was hospitalized with severe pneumonia. Odanaka noted in the article that levofloxacin’s potential adverse effects were not properly explained to her.

According to the article, many commonly prescribed drugs such as warfarin, rivaroxaban (Xarelto—Janssen), and ciprofloxacin have been linked to serious adverse events in patients. The article pointed out that many doctors don’t talk to their patients about how “effective or toxic” a medication might be.

Patient education

Fortunately, there are resources for patients to help them weigh the benefits and risks of medications. “Too many times patients go to the doctor, receive a prescription medication and arrive home, only to realize that they are not exactly sure about possible side effects, dosing challenges or the risk of taking a new medication,” said Ray Bullman, Executive Vice President of National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE).

Since 1982, NCPIE has brought leading stakeholders together to promote dialogue about the safe, appropriate use of medicines. Earlier this year, NCPIE launched the Talk Before You Take campaign. Funded by an FDA grant, the campaign is designed to help practitioners, their patients and caregivers have conversations about better understanding and balancing the benefits and potential risks of prescription drugs.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

“The goals of NCPIE’s Talk Before You Take research-based educational campaign in many ways reflect what the pharmacy profession is about as the medication counseling expert on patients’ primary health care teams,” said Bullman. “The campaign encourages pharmacists, patients, and caregivers to take the initiative to communicate about benefits and often undercommunicated potential risks associated with medicines; supports the pharmacist, during med sync encounters, in discussions with patients about potential risks and warnings associated with their medicines; and supports the pharmacists’ role of proactively identifying and communicating potential medication risks back to initiating prescribers.”

As the medication experts, pharmacists have an important role to play in counseling patients about the benefits, potential risks, and other key information to help promote safe and appropriate medication use.

“Pharmacists can clarify patients’ concerns and questions about taking certain medications when prescribed or recommended as part of a treatment regimen,” said Bullman in an interview with “This becomes exceedingly important when patients are prescribed medications with high-risk potential like strong pain medications or behavioral health medications.”

For health care provider tools, patient tools, and more information about NCPIE’s Talk Before You Take campaign, visit