Many of us take prescription drugs to help with our medical conditions. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of Americans who took at least one prescription drug in the last month increased from 44% to 48% over the last 10 years, while those taking two or more drugs increased from 25% to 31%, and five or more drugs—from 6% to 11%.
Given our growing use of prescription drugs, it is important to know how to safely take them and what to do if we have a problem. For example, if we have an “adverse drug event”. This is a bad or harmful reaction— such as dizziness—to a drug that is used to treat or prevent a disease. The first thing to do when dealing with any problem is to talk to your doctor, other health staff in your doctor's office or your pharmacist. But there are also some online resources that can be helpful as well.
A consumer-oriented website called ConsumerMedSafety (http://www.consumermedsafety.org/) is designed to help patients and families avoid mistakes when taking medicines. It offers a range of information about purchasing drugs, storing and discarding them, and keeping children safe.
The organization also sponsors an online medication error reporting system where you can give information about an error or adverse drug reaction you experienced. Examples include: being prescribed a drug to which you were allergic; having an unexpected reaction to a drug because you were taking another drug or food that shouldn't be eaten while taking the drug; or problems with equipment used to give the medication such as pumps or insulin supplies.
Staff at the sponsoring non-profit organization (the Institute for Safe Medication Practices) will review the report and notify the right organizations to help avoid similar problems with the drugs. Here is a direct link to the “Report an Error” site at ConsumerMedSafety.org:
Another place to get and report information about adverse drug events is the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency sponsors a consumer portal that includes a wealth of topics such as information about buying medicine over the Internet and drug safety alerts: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/default.htm
The FDA also sponsors a program called MedWatch that allows users to report serious reactions and other adverse events related to drugs. medical devices, nutritional products or cosmetics. The program urges patients who have experienced a serious reaction to take the reporting form to their doctor, but this is NOT required. Individuals can complete the Online Reporting Form themselves.
For more information about reporting:
Here is a copy of the reporting form if you want to print and mail it: