Medication Safety Articles

 

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.

You may have heard from your doctor or pharmacist that it's important to fill all your prescriptions at the same pharmacy. This way, your pharmacist can keep a complete list of all the medicines you take. Some medicines can cause problems if you take them while taking other medicines at the same time. So, your pharmacist needs to know all the medicines you take to be sure it's safe to take them together.

A kindergarten student was wearing a Daytrana (methylphenidate) patch on his skin when he arrived at school. Daytrana is a medicine used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a condition that makes it hard for children to control their behavior and/or pay attention.

Acetaminophen is well known to consumers as a generic over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever and fever reducer. It has also received much public attention as a cause of liver damage when taking more than the recommended amount. To be safe, consumers need to look at the active ingredients in any medicine they are taking.

The "memory enhancer" herb ginkgo biloba has been linked to bleeding problems. One of the components in this herb slows blood clotting. Consumers who take ginkgo with other medicines that prevent blood clots, such as Coumadin (warfarin) or aspirin, may increase their risk of bleeding.

While speaking with a consumer about a new prescription, a pharmacist noticed that a mistake had been made when interpreting the doctor's directions for taking the medicine. The patient's doctor had written a new prescription for Vicodin (hydrocodone and acetaminophen) to treat pain.

In 2007, the drug company that makes Omacor (omega-3-acid ethyl esters) changed the name of the medicine to Lovaza to prevent confusion with another medicine, Amicar (aminocaproic acid). Lovaza lowers triglycerides, and Amicar treats bleeding caused by problems with the blood clotting system.

A woman with asthma stopped by a pharmacy to talk with a pharmacist about her Pulmicort Flexhaler (budesonide inhalation powder). After trying many times to take her medicine, the woman said it felt like the inhaler was not working. The inhaler keeps track of how many doses are left (see photo). But the number on the dose counter did not seem to be moving.

Medication Safety Alerts

FDA Safety Alerts

Show Your Support!

ISMP needs your help to continue our life saving work