Andrew Broadmoore, MD, Family Medicine, Denfeld Medical Clinic
With 82 percent of Americans taking at least one medication, and 29 percent
taking five or more medications, it's more important than ever to
know your medication. "All medications are potentially dangerous,
especially if they aren't taken as prescribed," says Andrew Broadmoore,
MD, family medicine physician at
St. Luke's Denfeld Medical Clinic. According to the
Centers for Disease Control Medication Safety Program, 700,000 emergency room visits and 120,000 hospitalizations each year
are due to unintended injuries caused by medications.
It's important to safely manage your medications. "Potential medication
risks are even greater for seniors and children," says Dr. Broadmoore.
"The bodies of children and older people don't process medicine
the same way as the average adult. Even an over-the-counter medication
can cause harm if it's not taken correctly."
Here are Dr. Broadmoore's seven ways to safely manage your medications:
Keep a list of all your medications—both prescription and over-the-counter
Even if your clinic uses electronic medical records (EMR), it's good
to have your own list. "The EMR printout is a good tool," says
Dr. Broadmoore, "but having your own list helps ensure all your medications
are current and you know the correct dose of each one."
Pen and paper are effective and there is also a helpful
Medication Tracker you can fill out and print that was created by the American Association
of Poison Control Centers.
Take all medications according to your doctor's directions
"If you don't understand what your medication is for or how to
take it, be sure to ask your doctor," says Dr. Broadmoore.
Bring all of your medications to your appointment
"Sometimes people continue to take medications after they were supposed
to stop," says Dr. Broadmoore. "Some vitamins and supplements
can interact with medications. If you bring them in, we can see what you
are taking, talk with you about it and avoid a lot of problems."
Tell your doctor about your over-the-counter medications
"People think because it's over-the-counter, it's not as
strong as a prescription medication, but that's not true," says
Dr. Broadmoore. "Some over-the-counter medications are very strong,
and they can be harmful if not taken correctly."
® (acetaminophen) can relieve mild pain, but if you take too much over a
long period of time, it can cause liver failure or death. "Accidental
overuse of this drug causes hundreds of deaths per year. The margin between
a safe dose and a potentially lethal dose is small. It is also an ingredient
in many prescription pain medications and over-the-counter cold medications.
It can be easy to take too much if you don't realize that acetaminophen
is in one of the medications you're taking," says Dr. Broadmoore.
® or Alleve
® (ibuprofen or naproxen) will not damage your liver but can cause stomach
ulcers, high blood pressure or problems with kidney function if taken
Know the correct dose for your age and size
Children, smaller adults and seniors may require a smaller dosage. The
livers and kidneys of seniors do not function the same as the average
adult, so they may require a lower dose.
There are many new recommendations for children and the use of cough and
cold medications. Children under the age of four should not use decongestants.
Talk to your pharmacist
"Your pharmacist is a good resource," says Dr. Broadmoore. "They
may notice or flag potential drug interactions, and they can double-check
dosage and use instructions. Pharmacists are very knowledgeable about
side effects, and they can also educate you in how to take your medication,
especially if it's complicated, like insulin for diabetes or inhalers