The Women’s Heart Foundation sponsors this April observance to promote awareness about the importance of keeping accurate records and understanding about the medicines that we take. The U.S.F.D.A. estimates that $77 billion is spent annually on preventable medication-related illnesses. Listed below are suggestions from the Women’s Heart Foundation for us to do on each of the seven focus days:
- April 1: Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet
Start with a clean slate. Discard outdated medicines and old prescriptions. Many drugs lose their potency over time. Store medicines in their original containers and in a cool, dry place. Locate medicines away from children and pets and from those who do not understand.
- April 2: Know Your Medicines
Know both the generic and trade names of your medicines. Know how to identify pills and what they are for. Make a list of all the medicines you are taking. Write down both the generic and brand names of medicines to prevent inadvertently double-dosing. Be able to identify pills by name. List prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, birth control pills, patches and supplements. Keep the list updated and keep it with you at all times.
- April 3: Read Medicine Labels Carefully
Are you taking what your doctor ordered and the way he ordered it? Note precautionary stickers on the label. Note the route, dose and frequency of your medicines. Keep medicines in their original containers. Pay attention to warnings. Note that some medicines can react with foods; others have to be taken on an empty stomach. Some lose potency quickly and must be kept in an air-tight container. The effectiveness of many medicines is dependent upon taking them at the correct times. How the medicine is to be taken ––the route–– is also important (i.e. by mouth, through the skin, under the tongue, inhaling. etc.)
- April 4: Dietary Supplements Awareness
Before you start taking a dietary supplement, discuss it with your doctor or pharmacist. Herbal medicines and other dietary supplements can react with medicines and have an unknown synergistic effect. All herbal preparations are contraindicated while pregnant or breastfeeding.
- April 5: Organize Your Medicines
Keep an updated record listing all medicines and supplements you are taking. Use of a medicine organizer box may be helpful, especially for those taking more than one pill several times a day, however, a medicine organizer box requires close monitoring, especially when there is a change in medicines. Also, be aware that use of an organizer box violates the rule of keeping medicines in their original containers. Managing pills with a medicine organizer box, while convenient, is not without risk. Take medicines as prescribed. New drugs with time-released action can offer some help with organizing with only once-a-day medicating. Ask your doctor about these newer medicines. Keep your medicine record up-to-date.
- April 6: Transitional Care Awareness
A change in medical regimen can be confusing and can place you at increased risk. Be diligent about communication with all healthcare professionals. Make sure you understand your medicines and how you are to take them before leaving the hospital or doctor’s office. Ask for written instructions. Be extra cautious whenever there is a change in your medical regimen. Double-check your medicines when picking up a new or refilled prescription. If in a hospital or nursing home, make sure the nurse checks your I.D. bracelet before giving you your pills. If a pill doesn’t look familiar, ask why. It may be a generic of the same drug you were taking however, if you don’t ask, you won’t know! Make sure you receive written instructions upon discharge from any medical facility and insist that both the generic and brand names of each drug you are to take is included.
- April 7: Better Communication With Health Professionals
Actively seek information from your pharmacist about the pills and the supplements that you are taking. Ask for print-out sheets on drugs and read them! Discuss all risks and benefits with your prescribing practitioner. Share information about the medicines and supplements you are taking with all your prescribing practitioners and with your pharmacist. Discuss expected effects and possible side effects. Report adverse drug effects promptly and never hesitate to ask questions when it comes your health and the use of medicines. Your doctor, healthcare practitioner and pharmacist are there to help…just ask!
We cannot be too careful when taking medications. Communication is the key to the prevention of medication errors. This excellent information is useful for individuals and sharing with co-workers.
Source: Women’s Heart Foundation