We all strive to stay healthy, and most of us accomplish this by staying active, eating a balanced diet, and getting a yearly medical check-up. However, there is something that could be quietly lurking in your life that you don’t think about until something serious happens, and that’s an adverse drug event (ADE), which occurs when medication does harm rather than good.
Your prescriptions needs a check-up, too
Did you know: there are 6,800 different prescriptions and over-the-counter (OTC) medications available today, and that doesn’t include the availability of the thousands of supplements and herbs. There are many things that can lead to ADE, and one way of preventing such an event is to take time and do a medicine check-up to make sure you're not accidentally putting yourself at risk.
Older adults are more prone to an adverse drug event
Some medication mistakes are due to human error, such as similarities in drug names and packaging or mistakes when calculating the dosage.
However, many problems arise when people don’t follow directions on the bottle or take medications that can counteract each other, which is a serious concern when it comes to seniors. Almost 450,000 Emergency Room visits a year were by older adults experiencing ADE, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
How to avoid medicine mistakes
Regardless of age, there are things everyone can do to try and avoid severe consequences to medications:
- Keep a list: Make sure you have an updated and accurate list of everything you take, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins and herbs, and make sure your doctor is aware of the list so that you are not mixing pills that can counteract one another or cause another problem
- Ask questions: When you are prescribed a medication, make sure you understand what it is and why you are taking it, and make sure it doesn’t negatively interact with other pills you are taking
- Follow all directions: Including dosage amount, timing, and if the medicine should be taken with or without food
- Read patient information: When you get medication at the pharmacy, there is information attached. Review that information and make sure you are aware of the side effects, and if there are other medications you should avoid. If there are any concerns, a pharmacist can help you, and if needed, alert your doctor if there is an issue.
- Keep up with bloodwork: Some medications, especially blood thinners and diabetes medication, may require regular blood testing, so make sure you follow the doctor’s instructions for monitoring
Watch over-the-counter meds, too
It’s equally important to follow directions for OTC medicines, as something as common as Tylenol can cause serious medical issues if too much is taken or if it’s mixed with alcohol. All drugs, vitamins and herbs come with directions, so make sure you read and follow them, so you aren’t putting yourself in danger.
Expose of expired medications properly
It’s not uncommon in households to have multiple bottles of unused medications, and in some instances, the medicine has expired. Expired medication can be dangerous on many levels:
- When medicine ages, the chemical composition can change as well as the dosage strength.
- With certain medicines, like some antibiotics, there is also a risk of bacterial growth, reducing the potency that can fail to treat infections, which can lead to a more serious illness.
- When it comes to pain medications, especially opioids, those pills need to be kept in a safe place, especially if you have young children in the household, because if they do get a hold of them, it can lead to serious problems.
How to dispose unused or expired meds
When disposing of unused and expired medications at home, consider the following:
- Mix the pills in a bag with used coffee grounds, kitty litter or dirt; do not crush the pills; just mix them in with one of the items listed. Seal the bag and place it in the garbage.
- For prescription bottles, scratch out all personal information on the bottle or remove the label before putting them in the garbage.
If you want to dispose of medication outside of the home, there is a registry of locations that have a secure disposal box. This is a great option if you have a family member or someone in the household who misuses prescription drugs, especially pain medications. It’s best to get those pills out of the house to a secure location to be disposed of properly.
As you schedule your yearly check-up with your Primary Care doctor, remember your prescriptions may need a check-up, too!
About Dr. William Newman
Dr. William Newman specializes in Primary Care. "I became a healthcare provider because seeing my father care for his patients inspired me to do the same. My patients can count on me to provide extraordinary care because I love getting to know my patients and growing with them. I treat patients of all ages."