Americans are trusting. When their doctors prescribe medicine, patients rarely take time to ask what it’s for, how to take it or what the side effects might be.
At the pharmacy, most people grab and go. They don’t stop to ask the pharmacist any questions either.
As a result, people often fail to take their medicine correctly. Many are unaware of side effects until they experience a terrible reaction.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has reported that in 2008 nearly two million people had to be hospitalized or treated in an emergency department for illnesses resulting from their medications. That’s up 50 percent from four years earlier.
Because everyone (the doctor, the pharmacist and the patient) is in such a hurry these days, very little time is devoted to verifying that people know how to take their medicine correctly or what the possible complications could be.
The result of such poor communication can be disastrous. Visitors to our website ( have shared sad stories. One woman wrote:
“My son was given Levaquin for acne by a dermatologist. He started to experience extreme pain halfway through his two-month treatment.
“After two years he is still in debilitating pain. A rheumatologist told him she suspects he has microtears in his tendons and there is nothing that can be done for him.
“This drug was given a ‘black box warning’ by the FDA in July 2008, but good luck finding it on the pill bottle. It was not on my son’s.
“There was a warning indicating that he might be more sensitive to sunburn and not to take it with Tums. I couldn’t find the black box warning on the information given with this drug and our pharmacist said nothing about it either.
“I had to look it up myself to learn that Levaquin can cause tendinitis and tendon rupture. We consumers must always research the drugs that the doctors give us.”
Patients are discovering that even when they take time to read the label on their pill bottle they may not get all the information they need. Even the leaflets that pharmacies hand out with prescriptions don’t provide uniform details on adverse reactions, interactions and how the drug should be taken.
Taking time to learn more about medications can save lives. Physicians, pharmacists and patients need to slow down and communicate clearly about what the medicine is for, how it should be taken and what symptoms to be alert for.
The following drugs deserve special care:
* Blood thinners such as warfarin or clopidogrel
* Corticosteroids like prednisone
* Antibiotics such as clindamycin, ciprofloxacin or Levaquin
* Cancer drugs including methotrexate
* Narcotic pain relievers including hydrocodone or oxycodone
* Blood pressure drugs like lisinopril
* Insulin
Such medicines can save lives. They can also cause harm. That is why it is so important for patients to learn how to use them wisely.
To assist in this process, we have prepared a free Patient Safety Questionnaire that will help your physician and pharmacist write down answers to key questions about your drugs.

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  1. RLB

    Doctors are not doctors any more, they are people mechanics, tied to computer analyses and unable to diagnose even common conditions that used to be routinely identified. I was nearly killed by a doctor who was unable to diagnose appendicitis. It finally ruptured and caused me to lose about six inches of small intestine.
    The disclaimer ” Your doctor has determined that the benefits outweigh the possible side effects” kills or sickens hundreds of thousands of patients every year. The blind faith that patients have in a doctor contributes to the problem.That faith should not be abused but, it is, every day.
    When I read the case of the young man who was prescribed levaquin as a long term treatment for acne, I was horrified! Levaquin is the most dangerous of all antibiotics and should never be prescribed for long term treatment. It’s side effects are well documented. Doctors are guilty of disregarding a patient’s complaints about side effects—Too busy?, ignorant?, or just plain don’t care. Maybe all the above. Patients need to become informed and take charge of their health care.
    Read the literature provided with every prescription. Except in life threatening conditions, most prescriptions are not even necessary, but, if they are, one should be informed about what it is they are taking, what they are taking it for, what are the possible side effects or compatibility with other prescriptions and above all, how long must it be taken.
    I am 83 years old, take no prescriptions. I am still active, play golf and walk quite a bit. I do take vitamins and minerals. My total cholesterol is 158, ldl 72, hdl 53. Never took and will never take statins. Sometime in the future when it is determined that lowering cholesterol with statins may be a contributor to Alzheimer’s and autism. Some sanity may come back to the practice of medicine.

  2. MR

    I can’t find any help for my problem, I cannot go out in the sun, if I do I will burn just like I was sunbathing all day, all this started five years ago. could it be caused br PROPRANOLOL.and BENICAR.

  3. Evie F.

    Even though we have Kaiser Permanente for our medical care provider, and they go over the medications with you (especially when it’s a new rx), plus, they have All the medications that you’re on as a check system for any allergies, inter-reactions, etc.
    But I do know from experience in the past, Pre-Kaiser, that we have to be proactive with our doctors visits/rx’s. What happened was, this Dr. came out of the room across the hall from a patient on oxygen, etc., walked into my room (open door) & I let him know about my bladder infection & he starts writing an rx for me. I asked, ‘which medicine are you prescribing?’ Without even looking up from his clip board, he paused, said, ‘uh, ah uh, Nitro-bid.” I said, ‘Oh, that sounds like heart medication with the word Nitro.’ Again Not looking up, he just mumbled, ‘huh, uh no.’ So I took the rx, got it filled & took it for 6 days. I had a Migrane for 6 days! I went back to the clinic almost a month later to say I’ve still got the bladder infection.
    The nurse pulled my chart. She then shifted her weight & blurted out, ‘Why did he give you heart medication!?’ I said, ‘I asked him!…’ So he was gone on a months vacation. She told me what day & time to call back & she’d put me through to him to tell him. I did. I asked him, ‘How was your vacation? It’s good that you had time with your family.’ Then I told him about the rx. There was dead silence, no oops, OMGosh or sorry from him…so I said to him, ‘Wow, wouldn’t that have sucked to have come back from a nice, relaxing family vacation to find out that you Killed one of your patients!?’ He mumbled, mumbled, mumbled…uugghh!!!
    Needless to say, I’m more proactive with my health care & especially prescriptions. I thank God for the medical care people in this world, but they are only human and mistakes can happen. But if we’re proactive while showing respect to our caretakers…we can work together with them for our active health care.

  4. AWM

    Yes, studying the label warnings does help. However, if we read ANY labeling and the warnings, would any one be taking medications of any kind? Even reading the label on the old standby aspirin could scare one away from using the product. Does not every med have some horrific warnings on the label? I am more concerned about interactions of different drugs – and hope that the drug works for me and not against everything else. Not sure where to draw the line…it’s a gamble.

  5. MCM

    Are there any serious consequences of using Voltarin Gel over an extended period of time?

  6. JED

    Indeed everyone seems in a hurry. Recently one of the national drug chains started advertising that Rxs will be filled in 15 minutes or a $5.00 gift card will be given to the customer. To me, a retired pharmacist, this promotes errors because of haste. Do we really need that Rx in 15 minutes or would a little more time and more careful filling?

  7. RLB

    The problem is not so much with the medication as is the doctor’s refusal to recognize the side effects. If you tell a doctor that you have a side effect from a prescription, he will either blow you off or tell you that all drugs have the side effects. Doctors seem to be a a loss to actually diagnose and treat illness.
    After being misdiagnosed and nearly being a statistic from a prominent doctor’s inability to diagnose appendicitis, I am not surprised by anything regarding medical errors.

  8. KJM

    It’s even worse when the doctor doesn’t listen. Tell her I cannot tolerate that drug, she smiles and prescribes it. I don’t take it and find another doctor.

  9. AHD

    A doctor once gave me a prescription for what I thought was a mild tranquilizer since I had some anxiety about moving to a new home. He just instructed me to take it every day. He seemed to be in a big hurry so I didn’t ask enough questions. I asked the pharmacist what it was and was told it was the generic for Zoloft. I gave it back and never returned to that doctor.

  10. wendell

    My son was prescribed Asacol for ulcerative colitis. The medication caused kidney failure (ESRD)in just a little over two years. Kidney function needs to be monitored periodically while taking this medication.

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