Medications are prescribed to have a specific effect on your body, such as lowering blood pressure or decreasing blood sugar levels. While the perfect drug would only affect the intended target, this is never the case. Besides a drug’s positive effects, negative, or adverse, reactions may also occur. The United States sees over 2 million serious adverse drug reactions (ADR) each year, with 100,000 people dying each year from adverse drug effects, making ADRs the fourth most common cause of death in the U.S.
The more medications you take, the greater the possibility of adverse effects. This can be due to taking more than one medication for the same condition, or it can be an interaction that occurs between two or more medications. The older you are, the more exaggerated the negative effects may be, especially during the first few weeks after starting a new therapy. Often, your body adjusts to the new medication after some time, and some of the negative effects lessen or even subside.
As healthcare professionals, we want our patients to succeed in their health. By taking ownership of your medications, you are empowered to take charge of how you feel in partnership with your healthcare team. Here are some questions you should ask when it comes to your medications:
Why am I taking this medication?
How does it work?
What outcomes can I expect (positive and negative)?
For instance, if you take medication for high blood pressure, be familiar with what your goal blood pressure should be.
Some people experience higher than usual blood pressure at the doctor’s office. (They get nervous or become agitated by waiting a long time.) If you think that’s the case, take your blood pressure at home when you’re calm and in your usual routine. And keep a diary so you can accurately report your blood pressure readings to your healthcare provider at your next appointment. If the medication prescribed isn’t achieving its purpose, it’s not effective in preventing the progression of disease.
Start any new medication when you’re at home so that any negative effects occur while you’re comfortable and at home. Report any uncomfortable or intolerable adverse effects to your pharmacist or prescriber.
For more tips on medication safety check out these sites:
Apps that we like when it comes to learning more about medication safety:
Have you empowered yourself to take ownership of your medications? Have you tried either of these apps? Please share your experiences in the comments section!