Three ways you can improve your prescription drug safety

It seems like there’s a drug for everything. Just turn on a TV news station for an hour and count how many pharmaceutical ads you hear. What always strikes me about those ads is when the narrator goes over all the known risks at a super-fast speed.

For example, a new study recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that a common class of drugs called anticholinergics has been linked to an almost 50% increase in the odds of developing dementia. These drugs include antidepressants, bladder antimuscarinics, antipsychotics, and antiepileptic drugs, with brand names like Artane, Bentyl, Oxytrol, Neosol, Symax and Vesicare.

Most importantly, the study recommends that physicians consider the risk when deciding whether to prescribe these drugs.

The truth is that, in our medicated society, we often don’t understand the risks of prescription drugs. When doctors prescribe a new drug, they usually don’t go over the risks and often don’t even explain the exact purpose of the prescription. Also, as a Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney, I’ve seen another problem emerge: it is rare for physicians to take a “big picture” look at all the medications a patient is on to look for potentially harmful drug interactions or medications that could be discontinued.

Fortunately, there are some steps that you can take to improve your drug safety, starting today.

Start by making a list of every prescription drug, over-the-counter medication, and supplement that you take. Write down the complete name, the dosage, who prescribed it, and why you’re taking it (what it’s supposed to treat or prevent). Bring this list to every doctor’s visit or hospitalization.

Any time you see a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant who may write a prescription, the standard of care requires a medication reconciliation to be done. This might be done in the paperwork you fill out in the waiting room, which asks for a list of the drugs you’re taking. Alternatively, a nurse may ask you questions. No matter how it’s done, it’s important to be comprehensive in your answers and in the information that you provide.

Medication reconciliation allows your doctor or prescriber to look at the big picture of all prescription and over-the-counter drugs you’re taking. When done properly, it should prevent prescribing a new drug that might interact with another medication on your list.

It also provides an opportunity for you to speak with your doctors about the purpose of the new drug and whether any of the medications could be tapered down or discontinued. In my experience, many healthcare providers are rushed to move on to the next patient. By taking a moment to answer this question, your doctor has to focus directly on you as an individual and your drug safety. It’s surprising how many people are kept on unnecessary drugs for months or years because no one was paying attention!

When you leave the doctor’s office or hospital with a prescription, there’s still one more step you should do. Take advantage of the free pharmacist counseling when picking up your prescription. Ask about the risks of the medication.

Ask whether the new medication will interfere with any other drugs you’re taking. If you fill all of your prescriptions at the same pharmacy or chain, the complete list should be available on the pharmacy computer system. Otherwise, you can share your medication list with the pharmacist.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of medication errors, then contact a top-rated experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney for help with your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.