Medication Safety Articles

 

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.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been alerting healthcare professionals about a multi-state outbreak of infections related to the use of an over-the-counter liquid stool softener known as docusate sodium (Colace).

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.

Caregivers of small children who are either hospitalized or visiting someone in the hospital should be aware of an unsuspecting source of choking. The small object is called a disinfection cap and is commonly used in the healthcare setting as a barrier on an intravenous port. The small cap has a foam sponge inside saturated with alcohol to help prevent infection. However, these brightly colored caps may be attractive to young children and could be a potential choking hazard.

Almost two-thirds of adults in the US own a smart phone and/or tablet. These high-tech devices have led to an abundance of apps that hold promise to engage people in managing their health care.

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