COPD Medication Safety Tips: Reduce Your Risk

  • Most people who have COPD take a number of different medications. This is especially true the older you get. With multiple medications, there is an ever-increasing risk of what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) calls adverse drug events (or ADE). An ADE occurs when a drug causes harm to a person.


    Medication Safety Statistics


    Here are some sobering facts to consider:

    • 82% of American adults take at least one medication and 29% take five or more medicines. The older you are, the more likely you are to be on multiple medications.
    • Adverse drug events result in more than 700,000 emergency room visits per year.
    • Almost 120,000 of those require hospitalization to recover from their ADE.
    • Older adults are twice as likely to have an ADE and seven times as likely to need hospitalization.
    • This extra medical care costs 3.5 billion dollars annually!
    • At least 40% of ADEs are preventable.

    Clearly, it makes sense to take steps to ensure your medication safety, wouldn't you agree?

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    Practical Tips for Medication Safety in People With COPD


    Here are some tips that should help you use your COPD (and other) medications more safely.


    1. Know what you're taking.


    Get the name of the medication from your doctor at the time it is prescribed and when you get it filled (and refilled too) at the pharmacy. Make sure you get the right drug--mistakes do happen! Also, know what the medication is for and what kind of beneficial effects, as well as side effects, to expect. When you understand why you're taking a medicine, you are more likely to take it correctly and consistently.


    2. Find out exactly how to take each of your medications.


    Are there any special instructions, such as take it with food or a full glass of water? Anything you should avoid, such as grapefruit juice with certain meds? Is there a technique to using the medication, such as with an inhaler? How far apart should doses be?


    Take notes about the answers to these questions, so that you can refer to them later. Don't rely on memory! And read the medication label, as well as the insert that comes with the medication. Ask questions of your pharmacist and/or physician if there is anything you don't understand.


    3. Ask your doctor if periodic blood testing is needed for the medications you take.


    Certain types of medicines, such as blood thinners, require regular monitoring to make sure the dose you are taking is the correct one. Diabetes medicines, heart medicines and seizure medications are other examples that require regular blood testing.


    4. Keep an updated list of all your medications, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and herbal supplements.


    Share this list with each of your health care providers at every visit. Medicines, vitamins and supplements can all interact with each other in unexpected ways. Let the experts help you avoid this by keeping them informed. Keep a copy of this list in your wallet and let your caregiver and/or family or friends know where to find the list, in case of emergency.


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    5. Use only medications that have been approved by your doctor.


    Do not try to treat yourself, particularly if you are on multiple prescription medicines. Over-the-counter medicines may not be so safe when mixed in with a cocktail of many types of prescriptions. Your doctor will help you figure out the best combination for you. Also, never share your medicines with someone else.


    6. Be careful about expiration dates.


    This is not usually a problem with medications you take on a regular basis. But for "as needed" medicines, such as a rescue inhaler or a pain medicine, they may lay around unused for months, or even years. During that time, they could lose their potency or decompose in some way. At any rate, you likely won't get the effect you were hoping for when you do use them after all that time. Throw out expired medicines. It's not worth the risk to save a few bucks by using them.


    7. Recognize that medications often take time to work to full effectiveness.


    Give a new medicine a chance to make you feel better before you decide to abandon it. It may take a week or two for you to notice its positive effects. And if you have side effects, chances are they will lessen and maybe even disappear as you get used to taking the medication. But if not, talk with your doctor before deciding to stop the medicine on your own. Some medications must be tapered down gradually for safety reasons.


    And never just stop taking a medicine because you feel better. Chances are, the medicine is the reason you feel better. If you stop it, you'll probably stop feeling so much better before long.


    8. Keep medications locked up and out of sight of kids and others.


    Kids are naturally curious and even childproof caps may not deter them. Make sure you take all necessary precautions to keep your medicines out of the wrong hands.


    For more information on medication safety, you may want to visit the Medication Safety area on the Centers for Disease Control website.

Published On: June 06, 2014