Medication Safety Articles


You may have heard from your doctor or pharmacist that it's important to fill all your prescriptions at the same pharmacy. This way, your pharmacist can keep a complete list of all the medicines you take. Some medicines can cause problems if you take them while taking other medicines at the same time. So, your pharmacist needs to know all the medicines you take to be sure it's safe to take them together.

A kindergarten student was wearing a Daytrana (methylphenidate) patch on his skin when he arrived at school. Daytrana is a medicine used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a condition that makes it hard for children to control their behavior and/or pay attention.

Acetaminophen is well known to consumers as a generic over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever and fever reducer. It has also received much public attention as a cause of liver damage when taking more than the recommended amount. To be safe, consumers need to look at the active ingredients in any medicine they are taking.

The "memory enhancer" herb ginkgo biloba has been linked to bleeding problems. One of the components in this herb slows blood clotting. Consumers who take ginkgo with other medicines that prevent blood clots, such as Coumadin (warfarin) or aspirin, may increase their risk of bleeding.

While speaking with a consumer about a new prescription, a pharmacist noticed that a mistake had been made when interpreting the doctor's directions for taking the medicine. The patient's doctor had written a new prescription for Vicodin (hydrocodone and acetaminophen) to treat pain.

In 2007, the drug company that makes Omacor (omega-3-acid ethyl esters) changed the name of the medicine to Lovaza to prevent confusion with another medicine, Amicar (aminocaproic acid). Lovaza lowers triglycerides, and Amicar treats bleeding caused by problems with the blood clotting system.

A woman with asthma stopped by a pharmacy to talk with a pharmacist about her Pulmicort Flexhaler (budesonide inhalation powder). After trying many times to take her medicine, the woman said it felt like the inhaler was not working. The inhaler keeps track of how many doses are left (see photo). But the number on the dose counter did not seem to be moving.

In any given week, four out of five adults will take a prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medicine. The more information you have about your medicine, the better able you will be to use it properly. But when it comes to prescription medicine, a 2006 study at the University of California in Los Angeles showed that patients left the doctor's office without at least one of these key pieces of information about their new medicine:

If you are hospitalized, nurses will typically give you the medicine your doctor has prescribed. But if the medicine the nurse brings to you doesn’t seem right, it might be that an error has happened. You may be hesitant to speak up about the potential problem. You may believe your doctor and nurse know more about medicine than you do. But in some cases, your instincts may be right, as in the example that follows.

A pregnant woman was given a prescription for "PNV" tablets. The doctor used this abbreviation for "prenatal vitamins." The pharmacist mistakenly thought that PNV stood for "penicillin VK," an antibiotic. He filled the woman's prescription with penicillin tablets in error.

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