Medication Safety Articles


Calcium is the most abundant mineral in your body. It is needed to keep your bones and teeth healthy. Calcium also helps the heart, nerves, and muscles work well. To properly absorb and use calcium in your body, you need several other nutrients, including magnesium, phosphorous, and especially vitamin D and vitamin K. The best way to get calcium is through the food you eat. Calcium is found naturally in dairy products (e.g., milk, cheese) and is added to some drinks (e.g., orange juice, soy milk). But some people may need to take calcium supplements to get the recommended amount, especially older people as they start to lose bone with age.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has overwhelmed the US and the world for many months, with no end in sight. As the fall season approaches, another health concern is on the horizon...the flu. The influenza (flu) virus commonly affects people during the fall and winter months, from about October through March. This year is expected to be extra challenging because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever this year to protect you, your family, and your community from the flu.

A mother picked up her child’s EpiPen Jr (epinephrine) autoinjector at a local pharmacy. Her child’s doctor had prescribed the autoinjector to use in an emergency caused by a severe peanut allergy. The mother was confused by the instructions printed on the pharmacy label: “Inject 0.3 mL intramuscularly one time as needed for anaphylaxis.” However, the strength of the EpiPen Jr autoinjector is displayed on the carton as 0.15 mg (Figure 1). The child’s mother was not sure why the pharmacy label said “0.3” while she was holding a carton that stated “0.15.”

In recent articles on—November/December 2019  and January/February 2020 —we described labeling problems with medical marijuana and how these can lead to errors. In this issue, we are going to focus on the growing concerns that some edible marijuana products may be appealing to children because they look like popular brands of candy found in stores.

A pharmacy almost dispensed the wrong birth control pills when filling a prescription. The near miss involved Tarina FE 1/20 EQ (norethindrone acetate, ethinyl estradiol, and ferrous fumarate) and Cyred EQ (desogestrel and ethinyl estradiol). Both birth control pills are made by Afaxys Pharma and come in similar-looking packages. The 28-day calendar packs come in pink and white pouches that look nearly identical. The cartons, which contain 3 calendar packs, also have the same pink and white color scheme.

Your prescription medicine may not be available at the pharmacy due to a drug shortage. This problem can happen for many reasons. Sometimes the company that makes the medicine does not have enough of one of the ingredients. Other times, the company has stopped making your medicine altogether.

Consumers can often spot a medication error by knowing what to expect. This includes knowing what medicine has been prescribed (for example, the name and dose), what the medicine looks like, and what side effects to expect. The following reported error and great catch shows the importance of knowing about the medicine you take.

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many doctors have switched from in-person appointments to virtual appointments with their patients using the phone or a computer video call. Virtual appointments, also known as telemedicine, can usually replace in-person visits effectively for consultations and for examinations that do not require close physical contact. They allow doctors to provide clinical services to their patients using electronic communications, without requiring patients to come into the office. Doctors are doing this to maintain physical distancing because COVID-19 can easily be spread from one person to another. Hospitals and clinics are also using telemedicine to communicate with patients and families.

In March 2020, the US declared a national state of emergency to control the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Since then, the loud and consistent message has been to “stay at home” and to only visit the doctor if necessary. Public health officials now fear that the “stay-at-home” message has inadvertently caused another health crisis—a dangerous drop in childhood vaccinations.

Many consumers have already bookmarked certain internet sites to help guide them to reliable information during the COVID-19 outbreak. The following websites should be included as primary resources because they provide the most accurate information about how to protect yourself and what to do if you become sick.

Medication Safety Alerts

FDA Safety Alerts

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