Teens need better info on medication

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Many teen girls feel confused and anxious about birth control.

35% of boys and 45% of girls in Europe and the US regularly take medication. Yet according to recent research, pharmacists do a poor job of communicating the risks and benefits of various medications to teens.

Pharmacist Dr. Priya Bahri commented:

This was shown in The Netherlands with isotretinoin, which is sometimes prescribed for teenage acne. Isotretinoin causes birth defects and so can only be taken in conjunction with effective contraception, requiring the physician and pharmacist to initiate a conversation with teenage girls. The study showed the pharmacists knew they should talk to the girls, but it didn’t reveal why the majority of them did not comply fully with their role in the country’s pregnancy prevention program when dispensing isotretinoin.

The medicines teens take most frequently are over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen and asthma medications. 32% take medication for stomach irritation and 6% for both sleep disorders and anxiety. Perhaps the most common (and serious) issues are with birth control: estimates indicate as many as a quarter of all teen girls may take some kind of birth control.

Dr. Bahri found that while teenage girls are likely to receive a great deal of health-related advice (such as vaccinating against HPV to prevent cervical cancer) it often leaves them feeling anxious or confused. She said recent HPV vaccination programs had triggered anxiety attacks in a number of European girls, adding:

As a pharmacist myself, I know how difficult these conversations can be, but I would advocate that pharmacists should be looking into their communication behavior and identifying opportunities and successful methods for initiating caring and non-judgmental dialogue. It is vital that pharmacists overcome our own hesitation to talk; we should start the dialogue and listen to questions and concerns.

She further suggested healthcare providers explore text messages and social media as more effective means of communicating with teen patients.