Medication Safety Articles


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced labeling changes, including a boxed warning, to highlight the risks of life-threatening infections with the use of Raptiva (efalizumab). FDA is also requiring the drug’s manufacturer to submit a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS), which will include a Medication Guide for patients and a timetable for assessment of the REMS.

Questions have been raised about the safety of Gardasil, a vaccine that prevents infection with types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause most cases of cervical cancer and genital warts, and some vulvar and vaginal cancers.

On September 4, 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the makers of four drugs known as "tumor necrosis factor alpha blockers" (TNF-alpha blockers) must strengthen existing warnings on the risk of developing fungal infections. Some patients with invasive infections have died.

Did you know that in the United States a poison exposure occurs every 13 seconds? Most poison accidents occur in the home and are often preventable. Of the estimated 2.5 million poisonings that occur each year, more than half involve children under the age of 6.

If you or a family member has been hospitalized, the first few days after returning home can be confusing. You may have prescriptions to fill for new medicines. You may need to restart some medicines or stop others that you were taking before your hospitalization. Or you may need to take these medicines in different doses, or at different times. These changes may cause you to make a mistake as you try to figure out what medicines to take or how to take them now that you are home.

Where do you keep your medicine? Preferably, not in the medicine cabinet in a bathroom! Surprisingly, the medicine cabinet in a steamy, moist bathroom is the worst place to keep any medicine; prescription or over-the-counter (OTC). The heat and moisture in a bathroom can make medicines weaker.

Avandia (rosiglitazone) and Prandin (repaglinide) are medicines with names that look remarkably similar when handwritten. In the figure below, a pharmacist thought the doctor had prescribed Avandia, but the prescription was really for Prandin.

Which rheumatoid arthritis medicines carry the greatest risk of infection? Which diabetes medicines are most often associated with congestive heart failure? Which medicines for depression are most likely to cause nausea or sleeplessness? Which medicines for high blood pressure cause the least side effects?

One in three Americans has taken herbal medicines in the past year to improve health. Annual purchases soar each year costing $5 billion in sales.1

Double, double, toil and trouble! William Shakespeare wasn't talking about drug names when he wrote this line in his play, Macbeth, but he sure had the right idea! Today, many medicines have names that look very similar to the names of other medicines. So mix-ups are possible when a pharmacist fills your prescription, especially if it's a handwritten prescription, as the following example shows.

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