Protect yourself from adverse drug reactions

February 4, 2010

It’s simple – the best way to protect yourself from adverse drug reactions is to keep a record of all medications you’re taking, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements and vitamins.

“A personal medication record will assist you in keeping track of all present and past medications, especially when you are admitted to the hospital,” says Regina Bentley, Ed.D., R.N., associate dean of academic affairs at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing.

“The first question that you or your family will be asked is ‘What medications are you taking?’ If you have a list with you, much time will be saved. You also can be sure that you’ll not receive medications that will react with other medicines you might have taken or that might be prescribed for you.”

In tracking your medications, Dr. Bentley recommends listing the name, form (pill, injection, etc.), dosage, frequency, start and stop dates, and notes (such as reasons for use and allergic reactions).

In addition, take a list of medications to all health care providers and have them explain how, when and why you should take each medication that is prescribed during a visit. Inform them of any side effects or allergic reactions, and learn potential effects when combining medications. Use the same pharmacy to fill your medications, and ask your pharmacist if there are foods or supplements to avoid. Don’t take more or less than the prescribed dosage, and, if taking several medications, keep a schedule.

“If you begin any over-the-counter medications or herbal supplements, see your pharmacist for them to review and verify you are not taking anything that would inhibit absorption of any medications,” Dr. Bentley said. “Maintaining a personal record and keeping it updated, as well as sharing it with all health providers you see, will help ensure safe and effective use of medication and prevent adverse drug reactions.”

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