Medication Safety Articles

 

A new syringe to administer concentrated Humulin R U-500 (insulin regular) will soon be available from the manufacturer, BD. The syringe measures U-500 insulin doses ranging from 25 units to 250 units in 5-unit segments. The new syringe is expected to be available in November 2016. Once the U-500 syringe is available, a U-100 syringe or tuberculin syringe should no longer be used to administer U-500 insulin in healthcare facilities or in the home.

Narcan (naloxone) has been available for many years to reverse the effects of overdoses of opioids (narcotics) such as oxycodone (Oxycontin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and morphine, as well as the illegal drug heroin. Narcan is given by doctors or nurses as an injection or through an intravenous line (into a vein). Last November, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Narcan nasal spray. This easy-to-use nasal spray allows emergency medical personnel, police officers, healthcare professionals, and lay people in the community to quickly treat someone with a suspected drug overdose.

Unlike medicines for adults, medicines for babies and young children often come in a liquid form. Thus, parents and caregivers must measure the correct amount of liquid medicine before giving each dose to their child. Many over-the-counter (OTC) liquid medicines come with a plastic dosing cup, oral syringe, or dropper to help measure a dose. A pharmacist may provide a dosing cup or oral syringe with liquid prescription medicines. However, a study published in October 2016shows that parents often struggle with measuring the exact dose of liquid medicine and make errors frequently.

Anyone can develop heatstroke during the hot days of summer and year-round in tropical climates. It is triggered by exertion in the heat or prolonged exposure to the hot weather, which causes the body to overheat. Heatstroke requires emergency treatment. Untreated, it can quickly damage your brain, heart, kidneys, and other vital organs and muscles. The damage worsens without treatment, increasing the risk of serious harm or death.

In May, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent out a warning that fluoroquinolones, a specific type of antibiotic (listed in image), can cause very serious side effects. These disabling side effects can involve the tendons, muscles, joints, the brain, and nerves in the spine. Tearing or a complete split of the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel and lower leg is an example. These injuries can be permanent! People who have had an organ transplant, have kidney disease, the elderly, and those who have recently taken steroids to treat another condition are at greater risk of developing these side effects.1

This month the American Heart Association (AHA) released a scientific statement that’s sure to get a lot of attention, and for good reason. For the first time, the AHA is warning consumers and healthcare providers about medicines that may cause or worsen heart failure. Heart failure is a serious condition in which the heart muscle weakens over time and loses its ability to pump blood to meet the body's needs. The medicines that may cause or worsen heart failure include prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines as well as herbals.

Inhalation is the best way to take a medicine used to treat asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). (See the Sidebar for information about asthma and COPD.) The medicine acts faster to control breathing if inhaled directly into the lungs. Also, inhaled medicines can often be taken in a lower dose than an oral tablet of the medicine. This can help to reduce the risk of bad side effects.

Do you or someone you know have a history of bone disease and easily prone to fractured bones? Medication bottles with safety caps are designed to protect children from accidental ingestion, but, on occasion, can contribute to patient harm. An elderly patient with multiple myeloma (a type of bone cancer) suffered a spiral fracture of the right arm while trying to remove the child-resistant cap on her medication bottle. The act of pushing down and twisting broke the weakened bone and caused the fracture.

Our organization, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), often receives medication error reports that result from confusion with drug names that look or sound alike. One look-alike and sound-alike pair that often results in confusion is hydrALAZINE and hydrOXYzine.

“Talk Before You Take” is a national awareness campaign launched by the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) to encourage and improve communications between healthcare providers (HCPs) and patients about the benefits and potential risks of prescription medicines.

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