Take your meds safely in April
What: Nearly half of all Americans use daily prescription drugs, and this continues to increase as new drugs enter the market and the population ages. While these drugs can save lives, they can also present a fatal danger when precautions aren’t observed. Prescription drugs are the leading cause of drug overdose in the U.S., even causing more deaths than traffic accidents. Healthcare groups are working to better manage prescription drugs, while consumers are encouraged to learn more about the possible dangers of the drugs they rely on. In April, educate the public on how to safely take their prescription medicines during Medication Safety Week.
Background: Observed during the first week of April, Medication Safety Week was started by the Women’s Heart Foundation in 1999. Each day of the week focuses on a different aspect of medication safety, aimed at helping prescription drug users become more aware of the safety measures they should take when on medication. This year, topics include proper medication storage; recording the names and dosages of medicines; understanding precautionary labels; checking herbal drug interactions; and communicating better with doctors, nurses and pharmacists.
Story Pitch: A variety of group within the health care industry can promote during Medication Safety Week. It’s a great opportunity for drugstores and pharmacies to share what they’re doing to prevent drug interaction, educate customers, and maintain good communication with prescribers. Healthcare groups can also use this time to identify ways they’re preventing prescription drug abuse, making it easier for pharmacists and doctors to spot potential dangers. Drug manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies are able to discuss the right ways to set a medication schedule and educate patients on easier-to-use medications, such as timed-release drugs.
Story Hook: For many older people, prescription medicines alleviate the common, chronic pain associated with aging. While these medications help many seniors stay active well into their golden years, it also puts them at serious risk of overdose, drug interactions, and even drug abuse, especially if drug tolerance lessens a medication’s effects over time. Many patients don’t know the dangers of some medicines, but learning how to voice their concerns and manage their medications properly can help prevent such dangers. How can patients recognize when they have grown dependent on a certain medication? Why is it vital to take medications as prescribed, and how can patients better follow their doctor’s orders? Keep the following in mind as you make your pitch:
- What should patients ask their doctors and pharmacists regarding medications?
- How can someone who has trouble reading prescription drug labels make sure they understand the side effects and dosage information they receive at a pharmacy?
- Caretakers and family members play an important role in helping relatives manage their health. What information should they have recorded and available in an emergency? How can they check with prescribers to be sure medications are being taken in correct amounts and at correct times?
- Managing several prescriptions can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to forget a dose. Can dosages or prescriptions be changed to make scheduling easier?
- How should patients discard of unneeded medications safely?
Tips: A local pharmacy that emphasizes good communication and education is a great source for information on ways pharmacists are preventing drug interactions and overdoses. Additionally, a doctor can talk about how to manage prescriptions and what medical information patients should relay to their doctors to provide. A person taking a variety of prescription drugs can also lend insight on drug safety.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Medication Safety Program
National Council on Patient Information and Education
National Institutes of Health – National Institute on Drug Abuse
Women’s Heart Foundation
–Researched, compiled & written by Kristina Elliott
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