The wrong drug can lead to a serious drug induced injury for yourself or someone in your family. For this reason, it’s important to have open communication with your doctor and pharmacist. It’s also a good idea to investigate the drugs yourself, and if you find unsettling information, speak to a doctor or pharmacist about it immediately.
As a rule of thumb, the best way to avoid a drug induced injury is not to use any drug until seven years after FDA approval. Consider that nearly 20 percent of FDA-approved drugs are removed from the market after approval and given a black-box warning, which indicates the potential for serious harm.
Beware of Pharmacy Distributed PILs
Patient information leaflets (PILs) are available for most FDA-approved drugs. These materials are not, however, FDA approved, and there have been a number of high-profile cases where accidentally and even intentionally false information led to significant injury.
Ten Rules of Safer Drug Use
- Whenever you see your primary doctor or a new doctor, bring with you every drug you’re currently taking. Fill out a drug worksheet and have him/her review them for possible complications.
- Always challenge drug therapy. Your goal should to be become and stay healthy through as few drugs as possible. Keep in mind that modern doctors are notorious for over-prescribing medications.
- Always start with the lowest practical does. The rule is, start low and go slow.
- If a doctor prescribes a new drug, ask him/her if it’s possible to discontinue another. Often, a doctor can identify a now-non-essential drug, or he/she you can use the new drug choice to fulfill another medical requirement.
- Doctors are quick to start drug therapy but slow to stop it, and this is a leading cause of drug induced injury. After you begin taking a drug, ask your doctor to reassess that therapy every three to six months.
- Watch for adverse reactions. If you have any strange sensations or physical manifestations, assume that it’s due to your new medication first. It’s not uncommon for a drug induced injury to occur because the patient didn’t realize they were experiencing a side effect.
- If you experience anything that may be a symptom from a drug you’re taking, contact your doctor immediately. If the doctor is unavailable, contact the pharmacist who sold the drug or the local drug hotline.
- Read all medicine instructions prior to leaving the doctor’s office or pharmacy. If anything at all is unclear or curious, ask the doctor or pharmacist for a better explanation.
- Never keep old drugs around the house. Instead, discard of them immediately and carefully. If you’re unsure how, call your local pharmacist or drug hotline.
- If you see specialists, then ask your primary doctor to oversee your care, and always use the same pharmacist. This way, your primary doctor can ensure that you’re taking precisely the medication that you should, which will help avoid drug induced injury.
Finding Additional Information
If you’re seeking additional information about the drugs you’re prescribed, the two best sources are your local pharmacy and local library. Feel free to use a pharmacy other than the one where you buy your medications. Be careful about acquiring information online because the drug companies are notorious for using it as a marketing platform.
The FDA requires pharmacists and drug companies to attach information to drugs that cover dosage recommendations, drug interactions and adverse effects. To avoid a drug induced injury, be sure to read this document thoroughly before taking any of the medicine. These inserts are often very small, so you may need a magnifying glass, and often very technical, so you may need help.
Pay particular attention to the precautions listed in the package insert. Your typical routine, such as eating a particular food, can cause toxicity due to a conflict with the drug.
Adverse Drug Reactions
The adverse drug reactions listed in the insert will give you a good idea of what you have to watch for in terms of symptoms; however, keep in mind that no list of adverse reactions will be complete.
Dosage and Administration
Finally, note the dosage range and the recommended application. If your doctor’s instructions differ, then be sure to discuss this with him/her or your pharmacist.
In closing, always be wary of direct-to-consumer marketing. Television commercials and other forms of advertisement do not emphasize your best interest. The FDA must regularly punish companies that presented false information that resulted in a drug induced injury for one or more clients.218