Showing posts with label drug safety. Show all posts
Showing posts with label drug safety. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Prescription Drug Side Effects: What You Should Know

Medication side effects fall under the category of “things most people don’t think about until they have to.” But make no mistake, all drugs have side effects, even if they are so mild that you don’t notice them.

When Side Effects Occur
Side effects can happen at any time, according to Kristen Howard, Pharm D. They can occur when you first take a medicine, with changes in dosage, or if you stop taking the medicine suddenly or too soon. If you begin to take other prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs, interactions among the medicines may cause side effects as well.

Types of Side Effects
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices. In short, understanding side effects is their business.

Some of the most common side effects include upset stomach, dry mouth, and drowsiness. These are relatively easy to manage, particularly if the patient is aware that they may happen. Your pharmacist may recommend taking a medication only before bed (for drowsiness) or with meals (to avoid stomach upset). These common side effects are almost always easy to find on the prescription label, or packaging, if the drug is available over-the-counter.

The FDA defines a side effect as “serious” if it is life-threatening; results in hospitalization, disability, or permanent damage; or if exposure prior to conception or during pregnancy could cause a birth defect. The good news is that by the time a medication is dispensed to you, it has been studied at length. Any risk for a serious side effect has been assessed and must be disclosed to you so that you can make an educated decision about the drug you are about to take.

How to Manage Side Effects
If you think you may be experiencing a side effect of your medication, speak up! Your doctor or pharmacist will be able to help you understand your options for managing your symptoms – whether that means adjusting your dose, how you take the medication, or possibly trying another alternative treatment. And remember, you are not being a “difficult customer” by speaking up! Most side effects are very common and it is common for different patients to have different reactions to the same medication. Doctors and pharmacists want to help you find the treatment that works best for you.

Have more questions? Check out the FDA’s online guide to medication side effects or speak with a medical professional.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Mental Health: Three Keys to Responsible Prescription Drug Use

Taking medication for a mental health issue is very common. Researchers from the Institute of Safe Medication Practices found that more than 40 million U.S. adults reported filling one or more mental health prescriptions in 2013, the most recent year of collected information. In fact, data from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that about 18 percent of U.S. adults experienced some form of mental illness in the past year. Taking a prescription medication to treat a chronic condition, like a mental health condition, requires more consideration than taking a drug for an acute condition, like an antibiotic for a sinus infection (though all drugs need to be used and stored with care). Here are three keys to taking your medication responsibly:

1. Understand your timeline and treatment plan
When your doctor prescribes a new medication for you, it is important to understand the full treatment timeline. Your treatment timeline includes:
·       When you should start taking the medication, (e.g. morning or evening, when your current prescription is complete, at the start of a new week, with or without meals, etc.)
·       When you can expect to see an impact, (e.g. will the drug will be effective immediately or will it take several weeks before you see a change in your symptoms)
·       When or if side effects may appear and what side effects you may expect
·       When or if you should call your doctor regarding specific side effects
·       When or how to stop the medication

Understanding when to stop a medication is particularly important for the treatment of mental health conditions. For example, while most treatments for depression are not addictive, patients may feel withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop treatment. In some situations, it is critically important to work with your doctor to ease off of a medication over time.

Your treatment also includes other therapies that are necessary to treat your illness, such as counseling, individual or group therapy, or laboratory monitoring. Drugs are only a part of a comprehensive treatment plan for mental illness.

2. Communicate clearly
Although today’s medical record technologies are becoming increasingly comprehensive, you should never assume that the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist you are speaking with has a full understanding of your health. Clear, open communication is critical to avoid dangerous drug interactions or possible side effects that may be unique to your situation.

It is important to always provide your doctor and your pharmacist with a complete list of all the medications you are taking, including prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs (including pain pills and nutraceuticals), as well as alcohol and recreational drugs. All can potentially create serious drug interactions with mental health therapies. In that conversation, make sure to include how much you take and how often.

Always speak up if you have any questions about when or how to take a particular medication and be sure to bring up any surprising side effects. It can be helpful to keep a small notebook or file of all of your prescriptions and notes from past appointments, so that the information is safely compiled in one location. Some patients like to store this information on their smart phone so that they always have it with them. The FamilyWize website has a Medicine Cabinet feature that may be of help.

3. Store safely
Everyone who takes a prescription medication for any reason should practice safe storage and disposal habits to lower the risk of dosing errors, accidental poisoning, and abuse.  Luckily, if you are already following the first two keys to responsible drug use, storing your drugs safely can be pretty straightforward. 

First, follow all instructions from your pharmacist for your specific medication. Some medications need to be kept in the refrigerator, or need to be taken at a specific time of day, etc. Those instructions are to keep you safe and to ensure that the treatment is as effective as possible. In general, store medications in a cool, dry place. Bathroom medicine cabinets are not always the ideal storage spot. Humidity from showers can sometimes adversely affect the stability of a medication.

Second, keep all drugs up and away from little hands, with the child safety cap tightly closed at all times. Only take your medication in a well-lit room (e.g. not in a dark bathroom in the middle of the night), and keep all drugs in their original containers. In the rare situation that a child does accidently take your medication, please call 911 immediately.

Third, track your doses. This helps to protect you from accidentally taking an extra dose and it protects your family, in the event that a family member tries to sneak a dose or self-medicate from your medicine cabinet.

For more information about safely storing your medications, check out the our blog post about keeping your family safe from accidental poisoning.

We are lucky to live in a world where there are prescription medications that can help us to manage mental health conditions. Working with your doctor and pharmacist to take your prescriptions responsibly is an essential step towards becoming your best self. 


This post originally ran on the Mental Health America (MHA) blog on May 8,2017.