Medication Safety Articles


Ibuprofen is s an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine that parents might give their child to relieve minor aches and pains or reduce a fever. For children, it is available in chewable tablets (100 mg each) and an oral suspension (liquid). But parents may not be aware that there are two different concentrations of the oral suspension. Ibuprofen for infants contains 50 mg per 1.25 mL (40 mg per mL) and is often called “infant drops.” This medicine is for 6- to 23-month-old babies who weigh 12 to 23 pounds (5.5 to 10.5 kilograms [kg]). Babies may not be able to swallow a large amount of medicine. So, ibuprofen for infants is more concentrated than ibuprofen for children.

Some contact lens cleaning solutions contain hydrogen peroxide, which should never be used directly in the eye or as a rinsing solution for lenses. When these solutions are used as a cleaning and soaking agent, the lenses must be placed in a special lens case provided with the solution to neutralize the hydrogen peroxide gradually over 6 hours. The lenses can be safely placed back in the eyes only after soaking for 6 hours in the special case, not in a typical lens case. If the hydrogen peroxide is not neutralized, or if the solution is used only to rinse the lens or put directly in the eye, it will cause severe burning and pain. It may even result in severe eye injuries.

In October 2020, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) gave permission to qualified pharmacy technicians and pharmacy interns to administer childhood vaccines and the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines. HHS determined that, during the COVID-19 public health emergency, pharmacies can help consumers access lifesaving vaccines, particularly in areas that have too few pediatricians and other primary healthcare providers.

Are you (or is someone you know) scheduled to have wisdom teeth removed? Pain after wisdom teeth removal is common, so dentists and oral surgeons may prescribe strong medicines that combine a common non-opioid pain medicine (such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin) with a stronger opioid pain medicine (such as codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone). Examples of such combination medicines are Lorcet Plus, Vicodin ES, Norco, Endocet, and Percocet, or generic equivalents of them. Opioids are effective in treating pain, but even short-term prescriptions can lead to dependence or addiction.

A pharmacist recently heard from two people who mixed up their insulin pens and gave themselves the wrong insulin. First, a 67-year-old man with type 2 diabetes had been taking the long-acting insulin, Tresiba (insulin degludec), 70 units once daily. Because his blood sugar remained high, the man’s doctor also prescribed a rapid-acting insulin, Humalog (insulin lispro) to take with the first bite of dinner. Both of these insulins came in pens. One day, he accidentally took 70 units of the rapid-acting Humalog (which is a very large dose of rapid-acting insulin) instead of the long-acting Tresiba. He immediately realized the mistake and called the Poison Control Help line (1-800-222-1222). He had to check his blood sugar every 15 minutes for several hours and eat and drink sugary foods and beverages during this time to keep his blood sugar from dropping too low (hypoglycemia).

Confusion between the medicines Wakix (pitolisant) and Lasix (furosemide) was reported. Wakix is used to treat adults with narcolepsy (sleep disorder) for excessive daytime sleepiness. Lasix is a diuretic (or “water pill”) which increases the flow of urine to rid the body of excess fluid and salt. Using an online secure messaging system, a man was asking his doctor about a change in his dose of “Wakix” and whether he should get blood tests drawn. The man was also taking Lasix, and the dose had been changed several times over the years. The man had made several spelling errors when typing messages to his doctor. The doctor assumed the man had made a spelling error when typing “Wakix” and was instead talking about Lasix. Further questioning revealed the man actually was asking about Wakix.

Heading home after a hospital stay can be overwhelming. An important part of going home safely is understanding your medicines before you leave the hospital. The medicines you were taking before being hospitalized may have been changed or stopped, or new medicines may have been added during your hospital stay.

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.”

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