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National Poison Prevention Week – A perfect time to brush up on medication safety.

March 18, 2010

This week is National Poison Prevention week across the U.S. where attention seems increasingly drawn to the problems of over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drug safety.  In the old days, during this week our parents would break out the Mr. Yuck stickers, check the child safety latches on the cabinets that contained the household cleaning products and wag a finger at us as they stood in front of the toilet bowl cleaner or bottle of Ammonia to remind us of their dangers and toxic properties.  But have you noticed something happening as our society has evolved over the past 10 years or so?  The focus during National Poison Prevention week has drastically shifted from safety surrounding ordinary household cleaners, paints and chemical solvents to the little storage area that hides behind the mirrors in most bathrooms – the medicine cabinet.  That’s right – what was once considered an area generally thought safe under parents control and oversight has now had the proverbial FDA spotlight shone on it as a source of widespread danger and safety issues due to the ever-increasing movement of our society to self-medicate and prescription drug use (and abuse) due to the proliferation of information available about the medications that surround us (see earlier blog entries).  Oh, don’t get me wrong – Poison Centers and the FDA are still plenty concerned about cleaners, but in modern times they only get a brief mention at the beginning of an article or story while medication safety gets the spotlight.

Take for instance a recent article released by the State of New Jersey on Poison Prevention week.  Over half of the article is dedicated to raising awareness of OTC and prescription drug abuse among children, teens and young adults with only very brief mentions of household cleaners and chemicals.  Furthermore, the FDA has seized National Poison Prevention Week to step back on their soapbox and remind us all that “the five-fold increase in unintentional drug overdose deaths noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 1990 and 2006 is a serious public concern.”  They remind us that deaths from the use of opioid drugs now account for more overdose deaths from heroin and cocaine combined.  The FDA (recently lambasted by Dr. Sidney Wolfe, Director of the Public Citizen’s Health Research Group as being “Cautious on food safety, reckless on drug safety”), is stepping up their efforts to battle prescription and OTC drug abuse and safety by initiating studies like “The Safe Use Initiative,” engineered to “create and facilitate public and private collaborations within the health care community…..to reduce preventable harm by identifying specific, preventable medication risks and developing, implementing and evaluating cross-section interventions with partners who are committed to safe medication use.”  Furthermore, the FDA is addressing the growing drug safety concerns of acetaminophen, strategies for the safe disposal of drugs (click here for an interesting article on drug disposal from Gaston County, North Carolina), more in-depth evaluations of the abuse potential of drugs and throwing their support behind efforts to find safer pain medications.

The truth is that drug safety, whether it be OTC or prescription, is a very prominent concern for everyone these days from the government to drug manufacturers to civic coalitions to parents to you and I.  We all have a vested interest in ensuring that medications in this country are used safely, after all the brunt of the uninsured drug overdoses and unnecessary complications arising from medication misuse falls on us, John Q. Taxpayer’s shoulders.  As the health care debate rages on in Washington, D.C. and we see our health care system costs spiraling out of control, it is efforts like stepping up drug safety initiatives as well as greater and more easily attained access to drug information that will ultimately make the largest dent in controlling health care costs and making health care affordable for everyone.

At Medilyzer, our missions are to save lives, save health care dollars and save time.  Through our OTC and prescription drug safety solutions we offer life saving information that is easily understood and offered in a clear, interactive, multi-lingual format.  No longer do you need to struggle with confusing manufacturer drug label information or worry about toxic or even deadly consequences if you want to take two OTC medications together or combine a OTC with your existing prescription medications.  We exist to empower you to educate yourself and aid the pharmacy industry with the increasing importance and relevance of medication therapy management best practices.  Take the time this week or the rest of the month to brush up on OTC and prescription drug safety.  Here are a few links to get your started in your research:

http://www.bemedwise.org/ten_ways/ten_ways.htm

http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/UnderstandingOver-the-CounterMedicines/ucm101467.htm

http://www.medilyzer.com/otc-resources.html

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My male co-worker takes Midol. You’re kidding, right?

March 10, 2010

We all know that Midol is a medication that is used primarily to treat symptoms related to female menstrual and premenstrual syndromes such as pain, bloating and discomfort.  The product is manufactured, labeled and marketed specifically for women and the physical problems they experience due to this biological attribute.  So imagine my surprise when I recently saw one of my male coworkers popping in a couple of Midol tablets while at work one day.  Before I approached him, TV and radio commercials for Midol flashed through my head as I recalled the message of discomfort and pain that women go through when experiencing this condition and couldn’t help but feel a little squeamish as I sat there.  When I approached him to determine this perceived bizarre medication behavior I promised I would keep an open mind, and concentrate on a little fact checking and education within my conversation.  Through my conversation with my male co-worker I found out that he had researched the active ingredients in Midol and determined that they are acetaminophen (to treat pain), caffeine and pyrilamine maletate (which helps to relieve bloating and cramping).  Turns out that he had experienced problems with bloating after eating certain foods and was a chronic headache and backache sufferer so he was taking Midol specifically because of those active ingredients to relieve the symptoms he was experiencing.

But wait a second.  Midol is only for women, right?  Wrong.  It is only perceived that way because of the drug manufacturer’s marketing and advertising campaign to women as a relief for their menstrual and pre-menstrual symptoms.  It got me to thinking…..why is it that we, as consumers, so often blindly listen only to medication advertising and marketing messages without doing our own homework on the active ingredients of a drug to use that information as a way to self-medicate?  Self-medication is defined as “use of a drug with therapeutic intent but without professional advice or prescription.”  It is on the rise on this country and as more medications are available as OTC drugs, more consumers are taking their health care into their own hands and liberating themselves from established medicine by diagnosing, researching and prescribing their own medications for a particular ailment or condition.  It’s only natural as a society that we have evolved to this stage due to the skyrocketing amount if information available on the Internet and other resources about every possible subject on medication and diagnosis we can imagine, and more.  Unfortunately, the research that a large number of consumers conduct is solely based on marketing and advertising messages, especially testimonials from satisfied users, rather than a complete and thorough understanding of; the medication active ingredients, drug label warnings, dangerous side effects, proper dosage amounts and pre-existing conditions, just to name a few.  We look to our peers for first hand stories and advice, and to the drug manufacturers as a trusted resource for the due diligence required before ingesting our seemingly intelligent choice of which medication would work best.

The story of Midol is a clear cut example of how someone had done their homework and researched the active ingredients and side effects of the medication before determining that it wasn’t relegated exclusively for the treatment of menstrual and pre-menstrual syndromes but could also act as a relief for the unique symptoms that they were experiencing.  At Medilyzer, we encourage consumers to use our resources as a platform to educate themselves on the truth of medications and step outside of the maufacturer’s marketing zone to empower oneself to use their own, unique biological condition as the starting point for their self-medication.  If my co-worker went to the Dr’s office to seek professional advice and a treatment recommendation for his condition, do you think that Dr. would have suggested Midol as a viable medication?  My guess is probably not.  It was through my co-worker’s use of the Medilyzer database  and information portal that directed him to use Midol to relieve his symptoms and subside his discomfort.  His condition was unique, as every consumer’s is, and he empowered himself through the Medilyzer resources to take action in his efforts to self-medicate his condition.

The moral of the story is: extensively educate yourself, do your homework and don’t rely only on what you see on T.V. and in print or hear on the radio when arriving at your decision on what medication is appropriate for you.  Use the resources that Medilyzer provides you, heck you can even download our solution to your smart phone and carry it with you when you visit the pharmacy to have it readily available as you conduct your research.  Educate, empower, then act.

Follow us on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook for frequent postings on pertinent drug news and information that you should be aware of!

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The death of actress Brittany Murphy – a tragedy and a lesson learned

March 3, 2010

Actress Brittany Murphy died on December 20th in her Hollywood Hills home, and according to CNN.com her death was due to “an accident caused by a combination of pneumonia, an iron deficiency and multiple drug intoxication.”  The full autopsy report said that, “multiple medications were present in the blood, with elevated levels of hydrocodone, acetaminophen, and chlorphenaniramine.  L-methamphetamine was also present.”  The cornoner reported that “the pattern of use of these medications suggest treatment of symptoms of a cold or other respiratory infection.”  Her death was tragic, senseless and perhaps, avoidable.

We all can recount experiences in our lives where we have been ill, perhaps suffering from multiple symptoms at once and attempted to treat our illness without seeing a Doctor through self medication with an over-the-counter (OTC) medication or a combination of OTC medicines.  But before you took that OTC or combination of OTC medications, did you truly understand the active ingredients, proper dosage amounts, possible side effects and repercussions if you experienced certain pre-existing conditions or were already taking a prescription drug?  Chances are, you walked into the Drugstore or Pharmacy, went straight to the OTC aisle, grabbed your tried and tested medicine and went home to let it go to work on curing your condition.  So often, we as consumers become medication creatures of habit and since we are constantly bombarded by ads, commercials and promotions for OTC and prescription medications we listen and believe the message about how that drug treats such and such an illness or condition and in addition, portrays real life testimonials from people who have tried and used the medications with great success.  Heck, if it worked for Sally Sue on the TV commercial and she is experiencing exactly what I am, why can’t it work for me?  Shouldn’t we trust these drug manufacturers to be honest in their advertising, true to their morals in explaining possible side effects and just in their integrity in depicting these medications as an “across the board” remedy regardless of a consumer’s unique situation?

While it is true that the FDA monitors and regulates these advertisements closely to protect consumers from drug manufacturers falsifying information or stretching the truth about the ability of the medication to cure your ills, often times (just as most other fine print ads do – ex. automobiles), the serious due diligence that is required for consumers to perform before using the medication is relegated to teeny tiny print at the bottom of the ad which, let’s face it, very few of us read.  Could Brittany Murphy’s death been avoided if she had more fully understood the severity of possible dangerous and toxic combinations in the medications she was taking?  Her husband reported that shortly before her death, “she was on an antibiotic and was taking cough medicine.”

We do not know if Ms. Murphy had done the proper research on her medications before taking them to treat her illness or what resources (if any) she sought out prior to making the decision to mix multiple drugs but at Medilyzer we are determined to ensure that consumers have access to convenient and comprehensive tools that offer clear and accurate information about prescription and OTC medications.  It is exactly the type of case that Ms. Murphy experienced that Medilyzer is trying hard to prevent by empowering consumers to take control of their health and their choices in medications through education and research.  We offer technology solutions that include the ability to better understand the drug label and leaflet information on prescription and OTC medications plus check if there are any dangerous side effects through combinations of these medications in order to save lives and remove the tremendous financial burden that is placed on our health care system due to misusing these types of drugs.  We want to break the cycle of the consumer “if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me” mentality so that people understand that their body is a unique engine, susceptible to different degrees of reaction and interaction depending on many different circumstances.  Our solution to the growing concern of medication misuse is captured in four easy to use interfaces.  Please take the time to visit our site, and browse through our resources.  If you use a smart phone, download the application and take it with you wherever you go.  You can also visit our YouTube channel to watch educational videos on OTC and prescription drug safety and see firsthand how Medilyzer is making a difference.

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Novartis’ woes with Maalox

March 2, 2010

The recent FDA warning issued to Novartis AG stemming from consumer misuse and subsequent serious illness from using Maalox Total Relief is a clear illustration of how important it is for consumers to clearly understand the active ingredients in OTC medications and how they can adversely affect someone especially if they have pre-existing conditions that would render them at serious risk by using the drug.

The FDA recently received several consumer complaints about “serious medication errors” related to mix ups in using Maalox brand name products.  It seems that due to confusion on Maalox Total Relief’s  drug labeling information, some consumers who were susceptible to dangerous side effects due to pre-existing conditions such as a history of gastrointestinal ulcer disease and bleeding disorders or people taking certain diabetes or anti-inflammatory drugs were not clear that an active ingredient called bismuth subsalicylate (chemically related to aspirin) would adversely affect them when using the product.  The consumer assumption was that because of the brand name “Maalox,” the OTC product would treat and relieve acid indigestion, heartburn sour stomach, upset stomach and pressure/bloating just as other Maalox products do.  The traditional Maalox liquid products, including Maalox Advanced Regular Strength and Maalox Advanced Maximum Strength, are antacid drug products that contain aluminum hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide and simethicone.

However, Maalox Total Relief’s active ingredient is different than its traditional products which was not clearly described on the drug label causing the confusion and serious illness in some consumer’s who used the product. Traditional Maalox liquid products such as Maalox Advanced Regular Strength and Maalox Advanced Maximum Strength are antacids. However, Novartis’ Maalox Total Relief, which is an upset-stomach reliever and antidiarrhea medication that has a different active ingredient.  The FDA reported there was a “potential for serious side effects from mistakenly using Maalox Total Relief instead of other Maalox products.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that, “The FDA said Novartis has agreed to change the name of Maalox Total Relief to one that doesn’t include the word “Maalox” and will change the drug’s packaging to avoid further confusion. However, sales of the renamed product won’t start until September, so the FDA urged consumers and health-care professionals to read Maalox product labels carefully.”

This case clearly demonstrates the need for consumers to be extra cautious before using OTC medications and take the time to read and understand drug label information before using these products.  At Medilyzer™, we are committed to providing consumers the ability to use our database as a means to protect themselves from unnecessary negative repercussions when using both prescription and OTC medications.  We dedicate our product mission to promoting awareness, safety and consumer empowerment to safeguard against adverse effects of using OTC and prescription medications.  We believe that by providing consumers this information, we can actively promote patient education and help to alleviate unnecessary health care expenditures resulting in the misuse of medications in the market.  Our solutions are available in four applications including a downloadable interface for your smart phone.

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Introduction to Medilyzer Systems, Inc.

March 1, 2010

Welcome to the first blog entry about MediLyzer™, the revolutionary interactive prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drug information system designed to reduce medication health risks and to help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions.  Our goal with this ongoing blog is to provide some background information on why we created this life-saving interactive product, the benefits and convenience of having this resource available to you in multiple multi-lingual platforms and an ongoing prescription and OTC drug information portal that will keep you and up-to-date on how Medilyzer is addressing the growing concerns of reducing preventable harm from medications.

The idea for Medilyzer was conceived by its founder, Mizan Rahman, who when faced with confusion seeking to purchase cold medicine for his young daughter, recognized the struggle all parents must experience when trying to provide their children with safe medications. Realizing that hundreds of thousands of both adults and children are admitted to emergency facilities each year due to preventable adverse drug interactions, Medilyzer™ was created.  From the initial concept to act as a drug information resource center, additional enhancements were added to the software including:

  • The ability to enter prescription drugs and receive full comprehensive data reports that include; important information about the drug, questions to ask your healthcare provider, what happens if you miss a dose or overdose, what not to do while taking the medication, possible side effects, other drugs that affect the medication and how to get more information.
  • Functionality that assesses the safety of mixing OTC medications, what to ask a health care professional before using, when to stop using OTC medications, the internal organs affected by the medication and any implications from overdosing.

The Medilyzer platform is available through two different smart phone applications, and enables an end user to either scan the bar code of an OTC drug(s) to download data or check possible dangers of mixing multiple OTC medications (Android users), or manually enter the UPC label information (iPhone users) to receive this critical information.  In addition, Medilyzer technology is now available through a touch screen, interactive Smart Panel at your local pharmacy as we work with pharmacies on adopting this life-saving technology for their customers.

As we move forward with Medilyzer and continue to introduce this valuable resource to consumers, we will be periodically blogging about new features within the platform, important drug industry news and information and practical drug safety tips that you should be aware of.  We appreciate you sharing this blog through an RSS feed or e-mail subscription with your friends, colleagues and anyone else who can benefit from keeping informed about medication safety and the drug industry.



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