Medication Safety Articles


Medicines all have one generic name and perhaps one or more brand names. The brand name is chosen by the drug company. The generic name is assigned by an official body, the United States Adopted Names (USAN) Council. You probably know, for example, that Advil and Motrin are brand names for the generic medicine ibuprofen. Knowing that Advil, Motrin, and ibuprofen are all the same medicine alerts you to an important risk—that taking these medicines together could add up to an overdose.

Fall is the best time to get your flu vaccine to protect you and your family. Click here to watch a short video about the flu vaccine from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You can get your flu vaccine at many locations, including doctor’s offices, clinics, urgent care centers, pharmacies, health departments, schools, and college health centers Visit HealthMap Vaccine Finder to locate where you can get a flu vaccine—today!

Patients sometimes ask to take home left over medicines that were partially used during their hospital stay (e.g., insulin pens, inhalers, eye drops, topical creams or ointments). An example of this involved a diabetic man who was taking the long-acting insulin Lantus (insulin glargine) and also received the short-acting insulin NovoLog (insulin aspart) during his hospitalization.

People who experience seizure activity (epilepsy) often take anti-seizure medicine to control the condition. However, sometimes additional medicine may be needed to control bouts of increased seizure activity (cluster seizures or breakthrough seizures). The Diastat AcuDial rectal administration system contains the medicine diazepam, rectal gel, to manage these breakthrough seizures. The product is available in a 10 mg rectal syringe designed to deliver a minimum dose of 5 mg, or a 20 mg rectal syringe designed to deliver a minimum dose of 12.5 mg. Both syringes allow for the dose to be increased by 2.5 mg up to a maximum of either 10 mg or 20 mg, respectively. (There is a 2.5 mg syringe for pediatrics.)

Giving a correctly filled prescription to the wrong customer is a common error in community pharmacies. If this has never happened to you, maybe you're surprised by this fact. But you are more likely to be among the millions of people who have gone home from the pharmacy only to find they have someone else's medicine inside the pharmacy bag.

Do you use an inhaler? If so, always replace its cap after use. The importance of replacing caps on inhalers was recently illustrated when a woman accidentally inhaled a small earring while using her asthma medicine. She got her uncapped inhaler from her purse. As she inhaled the medicine, she felt a painful scratch in her throat and started coughing blood. She was taken to the emergency department, where the earring was removed from her lung. If the inhaler's cap had been in place, the loose earring in her purse would not have gotten into the inhaler.

When people suddenly become ill or injured at home or in the community, they or their families or friends can call 911 for emergency help. But who can a patient or family member call upon once they arrive at the hospital if they feel their condition is seriously deteriorating and nobody is listening? Many hospitals today are offering patients and families an opportunity to summon an interdisciplinary care team to the bedside if they have unaddressed concerns. These teams are called Rapid Response Teams (RRTs).

Most people are familiar with throat lozenges. Typically, they are a small, medicated, round or oval shaped and dissolve slowly in your mouth. They are used to treat sore throats, coughs, and other throat irritations. Common lozenges include brand name products such as Chloraseptic, Delsym and Vicks (figure 1) and can be purchased over-the-counter (OTC).

Have you ever thought about where medicines are kept in your home through the eyes of your child? Medicines left on counters, nightstands, in purses and bags, or on the ground are easily within reach of a young child. What's more, many medicines are brightly colored and look like candy, making them appetizing to children.

Those who take Pradaxa (dabigatran) capsules may not know they should be swallowed whole. The capsules should never be broken, chewed, or opened to take the medicine. Studies have shown that the medicine absorbs too fast if the capsules are opened, chewed, or broken. This can cause serious bleeding.

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