Medication Safety Articles


You may be surprised to learn that some medication errors happen simply because of misunderstood abbreviations that doctors and other health professionals use when communicating prescription orders. Misinterpretations can even happen when the prescription is sent by computer. Here’s an example:

The FDA has informed the public about reports of sudden kidney injury linked to the use of oral sodium phosphate products for bowel cleansing (for example, when used to clean out the bowels before a colonoscopy). These products include the prescription products, Visicol and OsmoPrep, and other products available over-the-counter (OTC) without a prescription when used at higher doses, such as Fleet Phospho-soda.

We realize waiting at the pharmacy to get your prescriptions filled can be frustrating, especially when you do not feel good. Well, to help decrease that frustration, some pharmacies came up with a marketing idea to reduce that frustration. They decided to give consumers a “15-Minute Promise” to fill up to three new prescriptions in 15 minutes or less. If the pharmacy does not keep the promise, the consumer receives a $5 gift card.

Vitamins and other nutrients are important for a healthy pregnancy. Women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant often receive nutritional counseling and/or a prescription for prenatal vitamins. A prenatal vitamin will not make up for poor nutrition. But it can provide a woman with vitamins and minerals they may not be getting in food.

Doctors often call new prescriptions into your pharmacy so you do not have to pick up a handwritten prescription. Unfortunately, prescriptions that are communicated orally can be misheard, as in the following example.

In the March/April 2007 issue of our our consumer newsletter, Safe Medicine, we published a report about concerns with over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines given to children. At that time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) felt that OTC cough and cold medicines did not lessen symptoms in children younger than 2 years old.

Dangerous mix-ups have occurred in community pharmacies between two powerful medicines: propylthiouracil (pronounced pro-pull-thy-o-your-a-sill)—a medicine used to treat an overactive thyroid, and Purinethol (mercaptopurine)—a chemotherapy (cancer) medicine used to treat leukemia

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.

Medication Safety Alerts

FDA Safety Alerts

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