ATLANTA – The busy holiday season – with its endless parties, travel and cold weather – also marks the height of the flu season. Patients can use medicines safely and effectively if they follow a few simple guidelines, according to Dr. Karla Foster, a professor in the Southern School of Pharmacy at Mercer University.
Foster, a clinical assistant professor in clinical and administrative sciences and a specialist in community pharmacy, said patients should consult their pharmacist when they have questions about their medications.
"One of my pet peeves is when I am picking up a prescription and I am asked to sign off on paperwork that waives my right to counseling from the pharmacist," she said. "I would encourage patients to talk with their pharmacists. If you take certain medications regularly, know what each one looks like. If the appearance changes, confirm with your pharmacist that you have the correct medication. It may be something like a manufacturer change, but it could also be a medication error."
Foster provided several additional tips to help patients avoid medication error and increase pharmaceutical safety:
· Keep a list of all medications that you take, as well as medicines that you cannot take due to allergic reactions, and share those with your pharmacist.
· If you take your medication differently from the originally prescribed directions, share that information with your pharmacist.
· Be sure to ask your pharmacist if certain foods, beverages, other medications, or activities should be avoided while you are taking the drug.
· Ask your pharmacist for any available written information on the drug product, and then read it.
· Question anything you don't understand or that doesn't seem right. Be especially alert to unexpected changes, such as prescription strength or appearance.
· Take medications at the same time each day. This increases the chances you will remember to take your medicine.
· Store medications in a safe place away from children.
· Do not store medications in a bathroom. Heat and moisture can often change the composition of drugs.
· Do not use medications past their expiration dates. For example, some medications increase in toxicity as they age.
In addition, as more medications make the switch from prescription to over-the-counter status, the number of consumers who are self-medicating will continue to increase. While this is a convenience for the consumer, it can also increase potential risks associated with taking those medicines.
Foster stressed that patients need to remember that if they are in a hospital or health system, they can always ask to speak to the staff pharmacist if they have questions about their medication treatment.
"Oftentimes, people do not think of non-prescription pain relievers as serious medicine. Nearly one-half of consumers do not read product labels, less than 40 percent are talking to the pharmacists about their medication, and one-third do not realize the risks associated with some medications," Foster noted. "In addition to the traditional role of compounding and dispensing medicine, pharmacists are moving toward a more professional advisory and primary health care role. Through innovative application of knowledge and skills, the pharmacist becomes an integral part of the community in healing, serving and education."
About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University has campuses in Macon and Atlanta as well as three regional academic centers. With 10 schools and colleges, the University offers programs in liberal arts, business, engineering, education, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, law and theology. For 15 consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has named Mercer University as one of the leading universities in the South.