Medication safety is a very important issue. Especially if you take a variety of medications for multiple conditions, there may be interaction issues that can not only reduce the efficacy of one of the medications but actually cause dangerous side effects. It is essential that anyone who takes more than one medication at a time understands medication safety concerns and follows doctor’s order regarding their use.

Current stats on medication safety

Did you know that 49% of patients withhold important information from their doctors? This can negatively affect their health when it comes to prescribing medications. An eye opening study by Clemson University in South Carolina demonstrated that when patients have control over how their medical records are shared with their healthcare professionals, they frequently leave out information that could impact their treatments. This issue is important and patients need to be able to trust their doctors with this sensitive information in order to receive the best care possible. This is leading to new methods of implementing healthcare IT to address patients’ privacy concerns.

Also disturbing is the realization that approximately the same percentage of patients aren’t taking their medication as prescribed. Researchers have discovered this is true across the board for any illness where medications are prescribed. Patients will often stop taking the medication as soon as they start feeling well or they don’t follow the instructions provided by their doctor. However, patients who take medications for conditions where these treatments have been proven effective and follow the directions of their doctors see a more positive difference in their overall health.

Older adults in the United States are also highly likely to take multiple prescriptions that interact negatively with one another. In fact, the disturbing statistic is one in every five will put their health in danger by taking medications that should not be taken together. David Lee, a researcher on the project, noted:

“Drugs tend to focus on one disease at a time, and most physicians treat patients the same way. As a result, right now we’re probably treating too many conditions with too many medications. There may be times it’s best to just focus on the most serious health problem, rather than use a drug to treat a different condition that could make the more serious health problem even worse.”

Strategies for medication safety

With all of these factors impacting the way patients are using medications how can you make sure that you’re not doing the wrong thing? Could technology, such as text message reminders, be helpful for most patients? What are some other ways to stay consistent? Let’s take a quick look at six ideas that can ensure you’re ensuring medication safety.

  1. Create a medication diary or list: This needs to be thorough or it won’t be effective. List every medication that you take, the dose, and how long you’ve taken it. You must include all over-the-counter medications and supplements. Many drug interactions occur when a patient doesn’t disclose these non-prescriptions which can render a prescription medication ineffective or, worse, dangerous.
  2. Disclose any deviation from the prescription: When you talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the medications you take make sure you let them know if you do anything different than what is recommended on the package directions. For instance, if you take smaller or higher doses of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or only use your allergy medication every other day. This could affect your treatment.
  3. Learn about the drugs you’re taking: While you should trust your doctor or the pharmacist, you shouldn’t leave all drug information in their hands. It is important that you learn everything you can about each drug you take including what they do, how they affect your health, and how to take them properly.
  4. Learn about foods or other things that can affect the drugs: Maybe you shouldn’t drink alcohol with your blood pressure medication or take certain supplements with the prescription painkiller. Eating too much spinach is bad for blood thinners because it raises your vitamin K levels. It is essential you know what lifestyle changes you need to make when taking a drug designed to treat your condition.
  5. Ask questions: If you don’t understand something about the medication you are being prescribed, ask about it. Blind faith in medical professionals can be as dangerous as not taking medications correctly. Be as thorough and clear as possible so you are completely comfortable with the drugs that are being prescribed.
  6. Ask for help: If you find that you have problems taking the medications on time or remembering them at all, ask someone to help you out. A friend or family member could text you when you need to take your next dose. You can also create a system that is easy to follow by posting reminders around your house or using a pill organizer.

Avoiding drug interactions

Finally, we want to stress how important it is to be cautious about the drugs you’re taking for chronic pain.Drug interactions may be one of the biggest dangers facing chronic pain patients. A recent study by the American Gastroenterological Association shows that taking NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, with other drugs significantly increases the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.

Researchers want to ensure that patients, especially the elderly, minimize their risk of bleeding by practicing better safety when it comes to medications. Their study identified a variety of medications that, when combined with NSAIDs, increased the danger of gastrointestinal bleeding. They advise that patients who need these high-risk medications discontinue the use of the NSAIDs or, if they are necessary, use them at the lowest effective dose and for the shortest amount of time.

What steps have you taken to ensure that you are practicing medication safety?

Image by frankieleon via Flickr


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