A user’s guide to medication: how to avoid becoming a statistic
Article contributed by Paisley Hansen – A freelance writer and expert in health, fitness, beauty and fashion. When she isn’t writing she can usually be found reading a good book or hitting the Gym. You can Connect with her at Google+
An alarming number of people are injured or killed each year by prescription drugs. The FDA estimates that hundreds of thousands of people are harmed by preventable medication errors each year. The errors occur at every level of use- prescribing errors, dispensing errors, and usage errors. There are some checks built into the system to help protect patients from errors, but ultimately the patient (or the patient’s caregiver) has the final responsibility, and the greatest motivation, to avoid prescription drug harm.
At the doctor’s office
The first step in avoiding injury to yourself is to be very sure of what the doctor is prescribing for you. Many doctors are using electronic prescribing methods today, which means that the doctor will transmit the information directly to the pharmacy. Ask the doctor for a print-out of the prescription for your own records. Read it carefully before leaving the doctor’s office and confirm with the doctor that you understand how to take the medication. If the doctor still writes out prescriptions on paper ask the doctor to clarify the instructions by writing them out for you clearly, without the Latin abbreviations and illegible handwriting. One safety tip is to request that the doctor note on the prescription the condition for which the medication is being prescribed, e.g. Drug A for high blood pressure, or Drug x for nausea. This piece of information allows the pharmacist to perform a safety check on the prescription. If the doctor has made a major dosage error or written down the wrong drug name the pharmacist should be able to catch the error before prescribing the drug.
At the pharmacy
After picking up each prescription, be careful to check the label before taking any of the medication. It is best to check the medication label before leaving the pharmacy in case an obvious error such as giving the wrong bottle to the wrong person has occurred. The label on the bottle follows a standard format. The numbers are for pharmacy use in refilling the prescription. Under the numbers are listed the patient’s name, the instructions for taking the medication, and the name and strength of the medication. Carefully read and follow the instructions. Confirm that the name and strength of the medication match those listed on the doctor’s original prescription. Many medications come in different strengths, so be alert to possible errors in the strength.
One area of great potential confusion is the name of the drug. All drugs have at least two names, the name of the drug and the brand name the drug is sold under. For example, your doctor may have prescribed Tylenol with codeine but the label on the medication says “acetaminophen with codeine.” Acetaminophen is the name of the drug, and Tylenol is one brand name the drug is sold under. Drug names can be looked up online to identify alternative names referring to the same drug.
If you take multiple medications it is wise to use the same pharmacy to fill all of your prescriptions. Pharmacists are trained to notice when a patient has been prescribed incompatible medications, but they can’t use their skills if they don’t know about one of your medications. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about over-the-counter medications and supplements that you take regularly. This includes herbal preparations, dietary supplements and homeopathic medications.
If you have taken the medication before and are familiar with how the medication looks, be alert to any changes in the color, shape, size, or imprinted marks. Do not take the medication if it has changed in appearance without communicating with the pharmacist first.
The medication will come with information sheets explaining side effects, precautions and possible interactions with other medications. It is a good idea to read through the sheets if you haven’t taken the medication before. You can also look up the drug online. It is a good idea to confirm that the doctor’s prescription of the drug makes sense. Check that it is listed as indicated for the condition you are being treated for, and that the dosage you have been prescribed is a normal dosage.
Read through the precautions, side effects, and possible interactions with other drugs. All drugs have side effects so don’t be alarmed by the list. Note in particular the list of serious side effects. It will usually say something about call your doctor immediately if you experience one of these symptoms, or seek immediate medical care if you experience one of these symptoms. Don’t hesitate to do so. When it comes to taking drugs, the old saying “better to be safe than sorry” applies very well.
What is your “takeaway” after reading this article?
As for myself, my medication consumption over the years for my nasal, bowel and now heart condition, together with natural supplements qualify me to provide you with these advice,
- You are “your best doctor”, you know your body well enough to know that it is uncomfortable, hurting, in pain or abnormal from usual. However, you must NOT be too stubborn to ignore Doctor’s advice too. Do some due diligence with the advises that they provided.
- Always separate consumption of Medicine and Herbal Supplements (preferably 2 hours apart!)
- Whenever you feel uncomfortable after medication, tell someone about it FIRST (if you can’t reach the doctor). Take note: If the problem persist, stop taking the medication and seek a doctor for advice immediately. Else try reducing the dosage by half to see if it’s as bad as before, then see the doctor about it.
- Never Never Take any medicines which you have kept for more than 1 year. Disposed the older one and consumed the newer one!
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