Are you fully aware of the risks of your medications?
A recent study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, revealed that four commonly used drugs, namely: Warfarin (Coumadin), Insulin injections, Oral anti-platelet injections (including aspirin) and Oral hypoglycemic agents (oral diabetes medications) cause two- thirds of the drug-related emergency hospitalizations in older adults (age 65 and above).
And fully two-thirds of these drug-related hospitalizations are due to unintentional overdoses. By contrast, only about one percent of these hospitalizations are caused by “high-risk” medications, such as narcotics, amphetamines, barbiturates, and antihistamines.
And not all the studies are new . . .
Earlier studies involving all age groups have demonstrated that adverse drug reactions (ADRs) leading to death have increased both for patients taking “high-risk” drugs and for those taking commonly-prescribed drugs, like those listed above. A study published in 1998 by the Journal of the American Medical Association indicated that ADRs were the sixth leading cause of death among hospitalized patients.
The results of these studies certainly should not cause anyone to stop taking their prescribed medications; obviously, medications provide critical health benefits. What these studies do point out is that careful monitoring is needed to ensure correct, effective, and safe dosing.
1) Know all the medications you are taking, the prescribed dosages for each, and why you are taking them.
2) Review your medications with your physician on a regular basis (every 3-6 months) to ensure that the medications and doses are still appropriate.
3) Call your doctor to report any new symptoms you are experiencing.
4) Be sure to tell your physician about all of the herbal remedies and nutritional supplements you are taking — they can interact with your prescribed medications.
5) Ask your physician about potential side effects and interactions of your medications, medicinal herbs and supplements.
6) Always keep a written list of the medications (and doses) you are taking in your wallet or purse.
7) Before you travel, refill any of your prescriptions that may be running low, and organize your medications so that you can easily adhere to your routine.
8) In the event that you are hospitalized, make sure that the person who will serve as your healthcare advocate has a complete list of your medications. In this way, he or she can follow up with the hospital medical staff about your care.
In sum, remember: It’s your body, so be sure you know what medications you’re taking and what they’re supposed to do for you. If you have questions about your medications, don’t be shy; talk with your doctor as soon as possible.
For even more information on this topic, please visit the U.S. Health & Human Services’ “Tips for Using Your Medications Wisely.”
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