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    Keeping Safe with Prescription Medication

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | June 12th, 2016

    Keeping Safe with Prescription Medication

    You might be surprised to hear that I do not like to take medicines. Whenever my physician wants to prescribe a medication, the first question I ask –“Is there an alternative to taking this medication?” When there is none, I take the medication and when there is an alternative, she will share her thoughts.  You might wonder, why not discuss the alternatives initially. I will tell you that in general, most people who see a physician want to leave the office with a prescription. There is some belief that there is a pill to fix everything. What most might not realize is that although Americans comprise only 5 per cent of the world population, we consume 50 per cent of the drugs prescribed.  Every year in the United States, there are about 700,000 visits to the hospital due to injury resulting from the use of medications.  Everyday 52 people die from prescription painkillers.

    I do not want you to think that I am not aware of the importance of medications. Medications save lives, however when not taken properly and not taken for the right reasons, they can be harmful.  If you take too much Tylenol, you can develop liver problems. If you have high blood pressure and take Ibuprofen, it may cause your blood pressure not to be controlled. If you take antibiotics for an infection and do not take it as prescribed, you may be setting yourself up for resistance to the antibiotic making it difficult to get rid of the infection.

    As mentioned in the previous blog, June is National Safety Month and the National Safety Council has a theme for each week. This week’s theme is ‘Be Healthy’ with an emphasis on medication safety.  They offer the following advice:

    1. Keep medicine up and away from children


    1. Be aware of medication interaction


    1. Ask about alternatives to opioid painkillers

    I would like to add to their list:

    1. Make sure that you inform your physician of all medication that you are taking including over the counter medication and herbal products


    1. Make sure you inform your physician and pharmacist of your allergies


    1. Never leave the office without a clear understanding of the medication that was prescribed and how to take the medication – you might even repeat back to the physician the instructions you heard


    1. Ask about side effects to the medication



    1. Ask about alternatives to medications – for example – can you drink more water and increase your fiber to help with constipation instead of taking a prescription medication?


    1. Do not borrow or give your medication to anyone – You might have the same symptoms, but there might be something different in your medical history


    1. Always ask if the medication would be safe if you become pregnant. There are medicines that might be harmful to an unborn child. If you are not using a good form of birth control or if you are trying to get pregnant, inform your physician – it will make a difference in the type of medication prescribed.



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