Health Matters Blog

Medication Safety – Avoid Being Hurt by Your Medications

By Paul Stanchfield, PA-C

Modern medicine has produced an astonishing array of medication to cure infections, prevent life threatening complications of chronic disease and alleviate pain and suffering. Unfortunately medication can also cause harm. When this happens it is called an adverse drug reaction or event. We at Brattleboro Internal Medicine want to keep you safe and maximize the beneficial effect of your medications. You can help us by keeping an updated list of your medication, following instructions, asking questions, getting necessary blood work and taking antibiotics and pain medication only as prescribed. Our commitment to you is to only prescribe medication that is absolutely necessary and review and update your medication needs at each and every visit.

Paul Stanchfield, PA-C

Paul Stanchfield, PA-C

Adverse drug events are a large public health problem. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) they cause over 700,000 emergency department visits in the U.S. each year, resulting in nearly 120,000 patients needing to be hospitalized for further treatment. As more people take more medicines, the risk of adverse events may increase. Those 65 and older, typically on more medications, are twice as likely to have an adverse drug reaction and seven times more likely to be hospitalized because of it.

Some medication requires blood testing to make sure you are on the right dose. Over 40% of emergency visits which require patients to be hospitalized are caused by just a few of these medicines which require regular monitoring with blood tests. Common drugs that can require monitoring are:

  • Blood thinners (e.g., warfarin)
  • Diabetes medicines (e.g., insulin)
  • Seizure medicines (e.g., phenytoin, carbamazepine, valproic acid)
  • Heart medicine (e.g., digoxin)

Another concerning trend with adverse drug events is the number of unintentional drug overdoses from pain medication. These medications can help relieve pain and improve quality of life. However, according to the CDC in 2010, approximately 30,000 Americans died of unintentional overdoses of opioid analgesics (pain medicines such as methadone, oxycodone, and hydrocodone); more people than from cocaine or heroin.

Lastly, some medication may not be effective in improving your health and can cause significant adverse drug reactions. Take antibiotics for instance. Nearly 100,000 adults are treated in emergency departments each year because of adverse events from antibiotics. They are designed for bacterial infections NOT viruses like colds, coughs, flu, sore throats, and runny noses. Do not ask for antibiotics when a doctor says they are not needed. They will not help treat viral infections. If you are prescribed an antibiotic, make sure to take all the medicine as prescribed, even if you feel better. Do not save antibiotics “for later.”

All of our practices here at BMH take an active role in ensuring mediation safety by reviewing your medication at each and every visit or hospitalization. You can help us by keeping an updated list and bringing medications to your appointments.

Paul Stanchfield, PA-C is a physician assistant with Brattleboro Internal Medicine, a member of BMH Physician Group. He can be reached by calling 802-257-2611.

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