Life and Health: Medications

By Dawn Pellas

Published 06/19 2014 05:36PM

Updated 06/19 2014 05:49PM

In today's Life and Health Ali Ingersoll discusses Medication safety with Dr. Katelin Speer, emergency department pharmacist, Mount Nittany Medical Center.

Medication errors can lead to severe side effects and even death, but luckily most of these errors are preventable.

When beginning a new medication, what do you need to know?

· When staring a new medication, there’s a few things you should discuss with your physician:
- Know both the generic and brand name of the medication, as many pharmacies substitute generic brands unless otherwise specified
- Ask how long until you see results, and ask what type of results to expect
- Know the correct dose, how long you should take the medication, and at what time of day you should take it
- Ask if there are any foods, drinks or other medications you should avoid while taking this new medicine
- Discuss possible side effects of the medication with your physician
- Also be sure to know what you should do if you miss a dose or accidently take more than the recommended dosage

What’s the best way for someone to avoid medication errors or medication reactions?

· It’s essential that you share information with your healthcare team so that you can best avoid any medication errors or complications.
- Remember to tell your providers what prescription and over-the-counter medications you’re taking, and the dosage and frequency of those medications
- If you’re allergic or have any side effects from prescriptions or OTC medications, mention that to your provider
- If you’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant, make sure you talk with your physician about this, too

Do you have any tips about giving medication to a parent or child?

· If it’s your job to give prescription medication to a family member, you can prevent errors by following the “five rights” – right patient, right drug, right time, right dose and right route
- Right name: double check the pill bottle label to make sure it has your family member’s name on it, especially after picking up the prescriptions from the pharmacy
- Right drug: double check the label to make sure you have the correct medication
- Right dose: read the prescription label carefully to verify the strength and compare it to the prescribed dosage
- Right route: make sure you understand if it should be taken by mouth, injection, patch or other
- Right time: be certain to follow the timing instructions unless the prescription says to take as needed. By not following strict schedules, certain medications may lose their effectiveness

Are there any common medication mistakes people should be sure to avoid?

· It’s important not to assume that chewing a pill is as effective as swallowing it. There are some medications that should never be chewed, crushed or cut up, as that can affect how well they’re absorbed in the body
· Don’t assume that it’s safe to cut a pill, unless your provider has specifically told you it’s safe to do so
· Store medications in their original, labeled containers away from children and pets. Keep the medications away from extreme heat, cold and moisture. Consider using separate locations for you and your family’s medications if the containers look similar, so you don’t confuse the bottles
· Try to use the same pharmacy for all of your prescriptions so they can alert you of any potential adverse medication interactions
· And lastly, don’t ever take someone else’s medication or give your medication to another person

Do you have any tips for managing multiple medications?

· While some people find pill-boxes helpful, I recommend a checklist instead. Create a daily checklist of all the medications you need to take, the correct dosage and the time you’re supposed to take them. Then you can check off each medication as you take it. Removing medications or pills from their original packaging may lead to mistaking one pill for another.
· If you have trouble remembering to take your medications, you could set reminders on your phone or look into using a reminder service. You can also make sure your checklist is easily viewable in your home.

Where can community members learn more about medication safety?
- Individuals can visit or other resources such as the CDC at

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