By Sarah Volgas, Pharmacy Resident, Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock
Medications are life-saving tools used to treat infectious diseases, manage chronic disease states, and help relieve pain and suffering. When used correctly, medications improve, prolong, and save patient’s lives.
Medications are generally safe when used as indicated and prescribed. However, there are risks associated with taking any medication.
Every year in the United States, adverse drug events result in more than 700,000 visits to emergency rooms and 120,000 hospital admissions. Many of these adverse events could have been prevented. You can help reduce the risk of harm from medications by educating yourself about proper medication use, storage, disposal, and safety.
Prescription medications should be taken exactly as prescribed by your physician. The specific drug, dose, and frequency were selected specifically for you and your medical condition. By missing doses of your medications or trying to catch up on missed doses of medications, you increase your chance of negative outcomes.
Taking more medication than prescribed can also be dangerous and cause adverse reactions. Make sure you understand the directions you are given and to read the label on your medication. Ask if there are any other medications, foods, or activities that you should avoid.
Know what to expect when starting a new medication, including common side effects as well as potentially serious ones. It is important to remember over-the-counter medications can interact with your prescriptions, making them ineffective or leading to harm. Ask your pharmacist to check for drug interactions or to explain any directions you do not understand.
Another important way to prevent adverse events is to ensure your medications are properly stored. Storing medications incorrectly can cause them to become ineffective or more likely to cause adverse events.
Many people leave medication in their car, exposing it to temperature variations. Medications should not be stored in extreme cold or hot temperatures. Only refrigerate your medication if directed to do so by your pharmacist.
Another important storage tip is to keep your medications stored out of reach of children and pets. Many adverse events are related to accidental overdoses or poisonings.
If you suspect accidental consumption or overdose of a substance, call the Arkansas Poison and Drug Information Center at 1-800-222-1222, or call 911 if immediate medical assistance is needed.
You can reduce the chance of accidental medication ingestion by disposing of expired or unneeded medications in your home. To properly dispose of these unneeded medications, remove them from the original storage container, mix with an undesirable substance (such as kitty litter or coffee grounds), and then throw them away.
You can also dispose of unwanted medications by dropping them off at a drug take-back program. Arkansas’s eighth Prescription Drug Take-Back Day will be held at multiple locations throughout the state on Saturday, April 30. You can find the closest location to you by visiting artakeback.org.
Any time you have a question about a new prescription, over-the-counter medicine, a potential side effect, or drug interaction, be sure to ask your pharmacist. Our job is to ensure medications are used appropriately and safely!
Here at Baptist Health, pharmacists play a key role in ensuring appropriate medication usage and routine monitoring for safety. Did you know a pharmacist checks every medication you are given in the hospital to make sure it is safe and accurate?
We work alongside other health-care professionals to ensure medications are being used correctly and help monitor our patients to prevent adverse drug events.
If you have any questions about possible medication side effects, just ask to speak to one of our friendly pharmacists!