2001: Educate Before You Medicate: Your Prescription for Good Health

Welcome to the National Council on Patient Information and Education’s (NCPIE) 16th annual observance of “Talk About Prescriptions” Month. This on-line Planning Kit will expand throughout October. 

Our Theme

"Educate Before You Medicate:
          Your Prescription for Good Health"

What is Talk About Prescriptions Month?

Talk About Prescriptions Month is a public health awareness campaign sponsored by the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE). The focus of the campaign is promoting the safe, appropriate use of medicines through enhanced communication between patients, their caregivers, and health care professionals. Safety in our health care system has come under much public scrutiny recently, with medication errors a common target for research and remedies. Since 1985, when the first Talk About Prescriptions Month observance was held, the consumer's role in ensuring safe use of their medicines has been highlighted by NCPIE and its coalition members. Starting in 1999, the theme Educate Before You Medicate has been connected to Talk About Prescriptions Month. This year's theme is:Educate Before You Medicate: Your Prescription for Good Health.

Click here for Ideas for Observing "TAP" Month

  The Facts About Medicine Communication  

  • Over two-thirds of all doctors' visits end with a prescription being written, making medicines the most common form of intervention (National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, National Center for Health Statistics, 2001).
  • In 2000, the total number of retail prescriptions filled was 2.84 billion. It is expected to exceed three billion in 2001 (National Association of Chain Drug Stores).
  • As much as 50% of medications prescribed for chronic use never get taken (J. Avorn, M.D., Harvard Medical School, 1999).
  • One study found a 76% difference between medications patients were actually taking vs. those recorded in their charts as prescribed. Older age and a larger number of total medicines were the two factors most likely to contribute to a high rate of discrepancy (Bedell, Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 160, July 2000).
  • Among elderly patients taking five or more medications, while the prescribing was generally found to be appropriate, what were needed most were more exact directions and more practical directions (Schmader, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Vol. 42, 1994).

Who is our audience for Talk About Prescriptions Month?

If you take medicines - or if you manufacture, prescribe, dispense, or educate people about the proper use of medications - then "TAP" Month is for you.

If you're a consumer, you have an important role to play on your "medicine education team." Together with your health care professionals (doctors, pharmacists, nurse and others), you should decide which treatment options are best for you. If medicines are suggested (whether prescription or non-prescription), then take a minute to ask questions about how to use them safely and appropriately (see below for 10 key questions).

If you're a health care professional, good communication about medicines can enhance your patients' positive response to your prescribed treatment regimen. Patients are looking to you for information, tips to promote safe and proper use, and reassurance that they are taking their medicines correctly. Why not host a Talk About Prescriptions event at your office or hospital? To get started, preview the educational resources offered by NCPIE to enhance communication about medicines.

If you produce patient education materials for certain medicines and/or for select population groups (women, children, non-English speaking, low-literacy populations, etc.), then Talk About Prescriptions Month is for you, too.

If you're a health insurer, health benefits manager, employee wellness coordinator or educator concerned about reducing medication errors and promoting the value of medicines used safely, then Talk About Prescriptions Month can help you promote safe, appropriate medicine use.

Click here to preview our educational resources.

Top 10 Questions Consumers Should Ask Before Taking a New Medicine  

  • What is the name of the medicine and what is it for? (Is this the brand or generic name?)
  • Is a generic version of this medicine available?
  • How and when do I take it - and for how long?
  • What foods, drinks, other medicines, dietary supplements, or activities should I avoid while taking this medicine?
  • When should I expect the medicine to begin to work, and how will I know if it is working? Are there any tests required with this medicine (for example, to check liver or kidney function)?
  • Are there any side effects, what are they, and what do I do if they occur?
  • Will this medicine work safely with the other prescription and non-prescription medicines I am taking? Will it work safely with any dietary/herbal supplements I am taking?
  • Can I get a refill? If so, when?
  • How should I store this medicine?
  • Is there any written information available about the medicine? (Is it available in large print, or in a language other than English?)


To read Talk About Prescriptions Month materials developed for the October 2000 observance, click here.

“Talk About Your Medicines” Month Archive