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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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