Commemorate Medication Safety Week April 1 - 7
and draw more attention to this health problem as the 6th leading
cause of death. The Women's Heart Foundation started a Medication
Safety Week to offering communities strategies to reduce risk
while raising awareness. WHF developed a MS Power Point slide program
with handouts based on guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration and the National Council for Patient Information
and Education (NCPIE). The program is meant to be administered by
both a registered nurse and a pharmacist.
Are you taking what your doctor ordered?
The Women's Heart Foundation recommends maintaining an up-to-date
medication record that includes both the generic and trade names
listed. This can help clear some of the confusion with medicines
and reduce your risk of a medication-related illness.
Print out a Medication
Record and download the Healthy Hearts guides:
Medications Safely .
Seven Focus Days were created to help commemorate Medication Safety Week
with theme days to perform outreach at the workplace or PTS, in
collaboration with your local pharmacy.
- April 1: Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet
Start with a clean slate. Discard outdated medicines and
old prescriptions. Many drugs lose their potency over time. Store medicines in their original containers and in a
cool, dry place. Locate medicines away from children and pets and from those
who do not understand.
- April 2: Know Your Medicines
Know both the generic and trade names of your medicines.
Know how to identify pills and know what they are for.
Make a list of all the medicines you are taking. Write down
both the generic and brand names of medicines as this may prevent
inadvertently double-dosing. Know the drug's purpose and why you are taking it.
Be able to identify pills by name. List prescription medicines, over-the-counter
medicines, birth control pills and patches and supplements. Keep the list updated
and keep it with you at all times.
Print out your free Medication Record (pdf format) by double-clicking on
Medication Record (English version)
or Medication Record (Spanish version).
April 3: Read Medicine Labels Carefully
Are you taking what your doctor ordered and the way he ordered it?
Note precautionary stickers on the label. Note the route, dose and frequency of your medicines.
Keep medicines in their original containers. Pay attention to warnings.
Note that some medicines can react with foods. Others have to be taken on an empty stomach.
Some lose potency quickly and must be kept in an air-tight container.
The effectiveness of many medicines is dependent upon taking them at the correct times.
How the medicine is to be taken ––the route–– is also important (i.e. by mouth, through
the skin, under the tongue, inhaling, rectal or vaginal suppository, enema or douche). Be careful!
- April 4: Dietary Supplements Awareness
Discuss taking a dietary supplement with your doctor or practitioner and your
pharmacist before you start it. Herbal medicines and other dietary supplements can
react with medicines and have an unknown synergistic effect. All herbal preparations are
contraindicated while pregnant or breastfeeding. For more information, go to
- April 5: Organize Your Medicines
Keep an updated record listing all medicines and supplements you are taking.
Use of a medicine organizer box may be helpful, especially for those taking more than
one pill several times a day, however,
a medicine organizer box requires close monitoring, especially when there is a change
in medicines. Also, be aware that use of an organizer box violates the rule of keeping
medicines in their original containers. Managing pills with a medicine
organizer box, while convenient, is not without risk.
Take medicines as prescribed. New drugs with time-released action can offer
some help with organizing with only once-a-day medicating. Ask your doctor about these
newer medicines. Keep your medicine record up-to-date.
Go to Taking Medications Safely.
- April 6: Transitional Care Awareness
A change in medical regimen can be confusing and can place you at increased risk.
Be diligent about communication with all healthcare professionals.
Make sure you understand your medicinces and how you are to take them before
leaving the hospital or doctor's office. Ask for written instructions.
Be extra cautious whenever there is a change in your medical regimen. Double-check your
medicines when picking up a new or refilled prescription. If in a hospital or nursing home,
make sure the nurse checks your I.D. bracelet before giving you your pills. If a pill doesn't
look familiar, ask why. It may be a generic of the same drug you were taking however, if you
don't ask, you won't know! Make sure you receive written instructions upon discharge from
any medical facility and insist that both the generic and brand names of each drug you are to take
is included. Follow the tips listed on the Healthy Hearts Guide
Taking Medications Safely.
- April 7: Better Communication With Health Professionals
Actively seek information from your pharmacist about the pills and the supplements that
you are taking. Ask for print-out sheets on drugs. Discuss all risks and benefits with
your prescribing practitioner. Share information about the medicines and supplements you
are taking with all your prescribing practitioners and with your pharmacist.
Discuss expected effects and possible side effects. Discuss if there are any
serious side-effects that your doctor needs to know about right away. Report adverse
drug effects promptly and never hesitate to ask questions when it
comes your health and the use of medicines. Your doctor, healthcare practitioner and pharmacist are there to help...just ask!
Go to Taking Medications Safely.
Go to Taking Coumadin® at Home
for safety tips when taking warfarin – a blood thinner.
KEY PROGRAM MESSAGES
Key program messages include how to store, secure,
manage and organize pills; understanding difficulties
that may arise in identifying new pills introduced, whether
they be generics or brand names; pills that look alike but
are different; pills that are similar in color; the importance
of reporting side-effects promptly; obtaining / requesting
drug information sheets from the pharmacist; reading labels
on medicine bottles carefully and paying attention to
precautionary stickers; being cautious when combining drugs
and herbals and the necessity of discussing this first with
your doctor and pharmacist; taking extra precautions during
transitional care; and most importantly, the necessity of
good, ongoing communication with your prescribing practioners
and your pharmacist about what drugs and
supplements you are currently taking including other-the-counter
medicines, supplements and birth control pills.
PLANNING YOUR EVENT
Having a successful event takes planning. You will first want
to establish a partnership
with a local drug store for having
a "brown bag day" - an outreach
activity that involves a dedicated day whereby each citizen is
to place all of her medicines and supplements that she is
currently taking into a brown bag and bring it to the
pharmacy for evaluation by a registered nurse or pharmacist.
Each person would have any concerns or questions personally
addressed, such as synergistic combinations. Ill effects
may require follow-up with the
prescibing practitioner. Another event may include
touring the shopping aisles of dietary supplements with
a pharmacist and herbalist. This would include vitamins, herbals,
soy supplements and other items that a person may be taking as
an over-the-counter "remedy" in addition to her regular food intake.
Consider inviting your local hospital, PTA, daycare center or occupational health
and wellness department to partner.
September, October, November
- Decide goals & objectives. Decide activities to achieve objectives
- Decide kick-off event date, time, place, activity
- Prepare a budget and solicit for sponsors to underwrite activities
- Contact School of Pharmacy for partnering activities. (i.e. Inquire if students could
participate at a health fair planned between April 1- 7 as an educational experience.)
- Prepare press releases /public relations messages.
- Decide on educational handouts for employees
- Decide on educational handouts for public
- Order educational materials/handouts
- Order promotional items for Health Fair attendees
- Solicit area businesses for free gifts and contest prizes
- Announce the event in company newsletter with theme and slogan
- Plan the April 7 Health Fair
- Secure the facility
- Contract for service providers to do health screenings
- Decide on a menu for April 7 lunch or brunch
- Contract caterer and vendors
- Ask a local radio station to cover your event
- Decide panel discussion topics and on speakers
- Arrange speakers for panel discussion
- Re-announce event in company newsletter in more detail.
- Introduce Focus Days
- Post statistical data on medication safety
- Post flyers and table tents in lunchrooms, at water fountains, elevators, etc.
- Plan kick-off event
- Plan community luncheon event
- April 1 – 7: Kick-off a celebration with company CEO introducing the event with
refreshments, balloons and banners. Follow Focus Days for introducing handouts in cafeteria/lunchroom.
Team with a school of pharmacy to hold a health fair with community luncheon.
Serve a light meal and assign a pharmacy student to be seated at each table to answer questions
Web Links and Resources
(Dr. Koop's site with headings Online Drugstores, Drug Checker, FDA Health Information and Alternative Medicine Center.)
(A long list of herbs and holistic health remedies and what symptoms they may help to alleviate)
(A coloring page for children on medication cabinet safety with the Safety Bear warning children not to go into the medicine cabinet)
This herb interferes with many drugs, including some cardiac medications. For a list of drugs not to be taken with this herb, access the website above. St. John's Wort affects brain chemistry and long-term effects are not known, therefore, many physicians advise limiting its use to no longer than 3 weeks.
- http://nccam.nih.gov – an information resource on complimentary and alternative medicines.
- http:www.qtdrugs.org –a website that outlines drugs that can cause potentially fatal
arrhythmias in a woman.
- www.georgetowncert.org –a website and registry on torsades to identify those women
at risk of sudden death due to this arrhythmia.
- www.talkaboutrx.org - website of the National Council on
Patient Information and Education with the theme “Educate before you Medicate”
- Fugh-Berman, A., and Prevention editors, New Choices in
Natural Healing for Women, Rodale Press'97
- Foster,S, Tyler,V,Tyler's Honest Herbal: a simple guide to the use of herbs and related remedies–available in
hard cover or paperback, Nov‘99
- The German Commission E Monographs, American Botanical Council (ABC), 1998 - for information on herbals and a rating system on their effectiveness.
(recently translated into English)
THE MEDICATION SAFETY PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
Darlene J. Goldstein, MD, Co-Chair
Lyman Hunter, Pharm D, Co-Chair
Kathleen C. Ashton, PhD, RN
Kris Olson, MS, RN, NP, C