Medication Safety

What is Medication Safety?

Drug safety also known as medication Safety or pharmacovigilance is the practice of providing essential information on drug safety and regulations including: recognizing, monitoring, reporting, and cataloging serious adverse drug reactions.

Safety monitoring of medicines is a continuous process, it is performed during clinical trials when medicines are developed, once medicines are launched (also called ‘licensed’) and throughout the entire period where a medicine is available for patients to use. Medicines are often taken by large numbers of people and side effects that are rare can sometimes only be detected once a medicine has been marketed. Individual patients and healthcare professionals are encouraged to report any side effects they experience.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s original purpose was to regulate the selling of misbranded food and drugs. Over the years, the agency’s role grew to include the approval and regulation of medical devices in addition to pharmaceuticals. It also supervises drug, device and vaccine recalls. The agency collects reports of adverse events and warns the public when needed.

Techniques In Medication Safety

The techniques used to monitor medicine safety range from the investigation of individual case reports, to data mining in large databases and epidemiology. This information is used to ensure the safe use of medicines and prevent harm to patients, and often results in an update of the side effects for a medicine detailed in the leaflet.

  • Reporting of individual case reports to regulatory agencies
  • Preparation of summaries of product safety at specified intervals
  • Preparation of risk management plans which contain actions (which can include epidemiological studies) to further characterize risks associated with medicines and ensure actions are in place to minimize risks when they have been detected.

Some companies employ specialist pharmacovigilance professionals to ensure that drug safety is carefully monitored and considered, whereas in other companies the role can be combined with medical information teams.

Medication Safety Tips You Should Know

Below are some important medication safety tips you should know

Know Your Medications

  • Know the name and doses of your medicines.
  • Know why the medicine is important and what it treats.
  • Read your labels to learn what you are taking, how and when to take it, etc.
  • Know the side effects.
  • Know how your medications interact with each other and any nonprescription drugs you may take, including pain killers, cold remedies and alcohol.
  • Know what to do if you miss a dose.
  • Know if you are allergic to any medicines.

Take Your Medicine!

  • Make sure you take your medicine in the correct dose. Use the measuring cup that comes with liquid medicines.
  • Take capsules or tablets whole, unless otherwise instructed.
  • Take your medicines at the right time(s).
  • Renew your medications in advance so you don’t run out.

Keep Your Medications Safe

  • Keep your medications out of direct sunlight and heat.
  • Keep your medicine away from pets and children.
  • Don’t store your medications with other family member medicines or household cleaners.
  • Keep medicines in their original bottles.

When You are in the Hospital

  • Identify yourself to the nurse before you take given medications.
  • Make sure your health care providers know all the medications you are taking.
  • Make sure your care providers know any medication allergies you may have.
  • Know which medicines you will need to take once you leave the hospital.

Other Tips

  • Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have a problem taking the drug for any reason, including cost.
  • Ask if there is a generic brand available.
  • Make sure you got the right medicine from the pharmacy.
  • Keep a list of all medications you take.
  • Know your medicine allergies.
  • Report unusual side effects.
  • Ask if lower doses might be helpful depending on your age or any kidney or liver problems.

Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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