Are you fully aware of the risks of your medications? A recent study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, concluded that improved management of many commonly used drugs can reduce the number of hospitalizations of older adults due to unintentional overdoses.
This study revealed that four commonly used drugs, namely: Warfarin (Coumadin), Insulin injections, Oral anti-platelet injections (including aspirin) and Oral hypoglycemic agents (oral diabetes medications) cause two-thirds of the drug-related emergency hospitalizations in older adults (age 65 and above). And fully two-thirds of these drug-related hospitalizations are due to unintentional overdoses. By contrast, only about one percent of these hospitalizations are caused by "high-risk" medications, such as narcotics, amphetamines, barbiturates, and antihistamines.
Earlier studies involving all age groups have demonstrated that adverse drug reactions (ADRs) leading to death have increased both for patients taking "high-risk" drugs and for those taking commonly-prescribed drugs to treat medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. A study published in 1998 by the Journal of the American Medical Association indicated that ADRs were the sixth leading cause of death among hospitalized patients.
According to Dr. Gary Kaplan of the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine in McLean, VA, “The results of these studies certainly should not cause anyone to stop taking their prescribed medications; obviously, medications provide critical health benefits. What these studies do point out is that careful monitoring is needed to ensure correct, effective, and safe dosing.”
Below Dr. Kaplan shares 8 simple tips to help you safely manage your medication intake:
1. Know all the medications you are taking, the prescribed dosages for each, and why you are taking them.
2. Review your medications with your physician on a regular basis (every 3-6 months) to ensure that the medications and doses are still appropriate.
3. Call your doctor to report any new symptoms you are experiencing.
4. Be sure to tell your physician about all of the herbal remedies and nutritional supplements you are taking -- they can interact with your prescribed medications.
5. Ask your physician about potential side effects and interactions of your medications, medicinal herbs and supplements.
6. Always keep a written list of the medications (and doses) you are taking in your wallet or purse.
7. Before you travel, refill any of your prescriptions that may be running low, and organize your medications so that you can easily adhere to your routine.
8. In the event that you are hospitalized, make sure that the person who will serve as your healthcare advocate has a complete list of your medications. In this way, he or she can follow up with the hospital medical staff about your care.
In sum, remember: It's your body, so be sure you know what medications you're taking and what they're supposed to do for you. If you or your caregiver have questions about your medications, don't be shy; talk with your doctor as soon as possible.
For even more information on this topic, please visit the U.S. Health & Human Services' "Tips for Using Your Medications Wisely."
About Dr. Gary Kaplan and The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine: The Center’s founder and medical director is Dr. Gary Kaplan. Board-certified in Family Medicine, Pain Medicine and Medical Acupuncture, Dr. Kaplan is also a Clinical Associate Professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine, and he has served as a consultant at the National Institutes of Medicine (NIH). The Kaplan Center’s team of physicians, physical therapists, and other health care providers combine the best of conventional medicine with the best alternative practices to address chronic pain and illness and to help individuals attain optimal health for life. To learn more about The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine, visit the website at www.kaplanclinic.com.
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Lazarou J, Pomeranz BH, Corey PN. Incidence of adverse drug reactions in hospitalized patients: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. JAMA. 279(15):1200-5.