According to the United Health Foundation, 178,000 hospitalizations a year are caused by misuse of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Antacids neutralize some medications, rendering them inactive. Aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs will prolong bleeding time and can cause internal bleeding or liver damage if taken too long or in quantities larger than recommended on the label. If we don’t have the knowledge we need before we take an OTC, we risk creating a medication error – even worse we risk losing our health or our life.
As more prescription drugs become available as OTCs, it is important we become educated consumers. Just because drugs are now OTCs doesn’t mean they are any less risky to take than they were when prescribed. It does mean we need to educate ourselves on how to use them properly if we choose to use them.
We don’t stop to think we can cause medication and other medical errors and that we can prevent them. Any one of the seven actions listed below, if not taken, is likely to result in a medication error, but by taking them, we are likely to prevent errors.
· Only use the drug for its intended purposes – do your research and understand what you are taking and why.
· Use the drug properly – follow directions that accompany the product regarding dose and frequency.
· Take only one drug with the same active ingredient at a time.
· If you have questions or doubts about taking the drug, speak to your pharmacist.
· Check with your pharmacist to be sure the drug will not interact with other prescribed medications, OTCs and supplements you take.
· If you experience side effects, contact your health care provider.
· Be sure to include all OTCs you take when you tell health care providers the medications you take.
Medications are medications. Don’t take OTCs lightly and be lulled into thinking that because you can buy them without a prescription they can be used casually.