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Reading The Fine Print: Medication Monographs

I recently was reading the fine print: a monograph about a medication that I am taking in hopes of finding connections to some recent symptoms.

As patients, when we go to the pharmacy we are usually presented with summaries for new medications. The pharmacist may go through this and any concerns you may have regarding the medication. You may have also seen the leaflet in the box with your inhalers. Have you ever read through the entire monograph?

Reading the medication monograph

I went down this rabbit hole and read the monograph. I really wanted to learn about the connections to cough - super-specific - and there was no guarantee that I was going to find the information that I was looking for.

When you have been on a medication for a while, it is easy to forget all about the fine print or that our experiences may change over time. This may also be the case if you have restarted a medication. It is easy to forget about what it may have felt like before or at the beginning. In my experiences, medications tend to settle in, either we adapt to what they feel like or we make decisions about what we can live with.

It is important to note that there are generally two versions of medication monographs: a patient or consumer version, and a healthcare/practitioner version. The main difference is that the healthcare one is more in-depth, but also requires a level of health literacy to understand it. It is important to note that if you have any concerns about medications that you should speak to your health team about them.

What does a medication monograph look like?

Monographs are made up of summaries (highlights) of the medication. They may include changes in indications or usage, updates in dosage and administration and the super interesting warnings and precautions, adverse reactions, and drug interaction areas.

Warnings and precautions

The warnings and precautions section will provide a range of important information ranging from, “Can you drive while taking this medication?" to what the outcomes have been in a specific population. In general, these populations include children, those who are X years of age and older, and outcomes in pregnancy.

Storage and handling

Another section that is super interesting is the storage and handling: for the exam, does it need to be refrigerated, should you be careful with exposure to direct sunlight?

Clinical studiesThere is often a section in the medication monograph that looks at the data from the clinical studies, you may be able to find additional information in this section.Adverse reactionsMy quest lead me to the ever-popular “specific adverse reactions” and warnings section. While I did not find anything specific on cough, there was some very helpful information about other things that I may have experienced or "may" experience eventually. (The quotations around “may” are really important. I think it is important to keep an open mind that not everyone will experience an adverse event, nor is the severity likely to be the same.) Key takeawaysAny and all concerns with medication should be addressed to your care team, pharmacist, physician, nurse, etc.Monographs are not the holy grail of things. Individual experiences will differ and some things may not be noted.Don’t be afraid of the fine print!Have a story about medication monographs? Share it with the community!

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