Doctors Offer Five Steps to Help Seniors Reduce Their Risk of Drug Side Effects

For people over the age of 65, two-thirds of emergency room visits result from side effects of medications in two broad categories, according to the Boston Globe and the New England Journal of Medicine. The categories are medications used to treat heart disease and those taken for diabetes. The study specifically lists blood thinners and anti-platelet drugs in the heart disease category, and blood-sugar-lowering drugs and insulin in the other. Numerous emergency room visits happen because of dangerous, and preventable, interactions between these drugs and other common medications.

The Globe goes on to list a series of tips to help seniors educate themselves about their medical conditions, their treatments, and the most common dangers inherent in their prescribed medications. Many medications require frequent, often constant, adjustments in dosage, so close communication with your doctor is essential. Long-term use of some medications can often cause their own medical complications and side effects, such as hypoglycemia with blood-sugar-lowering medications. The author quotes five tips from the American Association of Family Practitioners:

1. Obtain both written and verbal instructions from your doctor about the proper use of your medication. Ask your doctor to repeat the instructions as many times as it takes until you understand them. Understanding exactly how and when to take your medication is perhaps the most important step in avoiding injury.

2. Read your prescription, then read the label of the drug once you get it from the pharmacy. Read both the label on the bag and on the bottle itself. Make sure your name appears on all labels, and make sure the name and dosage of the drug match the prescription. Incorrectly-filled prescriptions are a frequent cause of medication-related injuries.

3. Talk to the pharmacist about possible side effects. You have an opportunity to do this whenever you pick up a prescription. The pharmacist can explain possible side effects and common drug interactions to you. That is part of why the pharmacist is there.

4. Stay in contact with your doctor and show up when requested for further testing. Notify the doctor of any side effects you are experiencing, no matter how minor they may seem to you. Failure to follow up once a medication is prescribed can lead to negative side effects down the road if the doctor cannot make adjustments to your treatment based on new information or changing circumstances. The doctor may also need to adjust medication based on unforeseen side effects, drug allergies, or other drug interactions.

5. Discuss all medications that you are taking with your doctor. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements, over-the-counter pain or allergy medicine, and others. Any of these could have adverse reactions with prescribed medications or even with each other. Your doctor needs a complete picture of what medications you are taking in order to make the correct treatment decision for you.

Accidents and injuries unfortunately will happen at all stages in the process of medical treatment. Clear communication with your doctor and careful attention to your medications and treatment plan can help avoid a large amount of danger.

The Maryland pharmacy error attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen are skilled at assessing liability and damages for injuries caused by medication errors and helping their clients obtain compensation. For a free consultation to review your case, contact a lawyer online or at (800) 654-1949.

More Blog Posts:

Government Promotes Communication Between Doctors and Patients to Reduce Pharmacy Errors, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, November 28, 2011
Patient Safety Initiatives in Maryland and Oregon are Showing Signs of Success, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, October 26, 2011
Preventing Medication Mix-Ups at the Pharmacy, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, October 5, 2011

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