Let’s talk about medicine safety, shall we? Safe medicine use depends largely on you, and your understanding of the drug, its benefits and its risks.
What you need is clear communication with your doctor and your pharmacist.
This is what you should know:
The medicine’s name
Modern meds have three names. The chemical name is the full official name of the drug. Chemical names can be tongue twisters so the drug is commonly known by a short generic name. A drug manufacturer gives the drug a unique brand name.
Thus, N-acetyl-para-aminophenol is the heavy chemical name for a drug commonly known as paracetamol (or acetaminophen) and sold under popular brand names like Crocin, Metacin and Tylenol.
Doctors usually prescribe brand names. There’s no problem in taking an alternative brand if the prescribed brand is not available. Your retail pharmacist will guide you on brand alternatives.
Brand names can be confusing, so please read the label very carefully.
Phenoxyl is a brand of the antibiotic amoxycillin. Phensedyl, however, is a brand of cough syrup. Phensedyl has been banned by the Indian government, by the way.
Tell your doctor to write legibly and to mention the drug’s generic name along with his preferred brand. A mature, responsible doctor will understand and oblige. The doctors I know do oblige. If the doctor still insists on scribbling … dump him.
Your safety is more important than his ego. Dump him.
Why the medicine is prescribed
I’m astounded at the number of patients who take medication simply on faith. If you’re not clear why you’re taking any drug, for heaven’s sake, please ask.
How it is to be taken
This is important. Some medications are best taken on an empty stomach for maximum absorption. Some are taken on a full stomach to prevent gastric irritation. Many drugs have to be taken on a schedule. Keep a written record, particularly when several medications are being taken. Or get yourself a pill box.
The words that make nutra-peddlers and alt-meds drool. Anything you ingest, including dietary supplements and “natural” herbal stuff, has side-effects. Be thankful that in the case of ‘allopathic’ drugs, detailed information on all drugs is readily available. So be sure to clarify matters with your doctor.
Precautions of use
Drugs can interact with food, nicotine, alcohol and other drugs. Please avoid alcohol with any drug. It is absolutely foolish to drink alcohol while on sedatives. You might die, you see.
Also, inform your doctor if you’re taking any so-called alternative medicine or dietary supplement. Several herbals and nutraceuticals (the ones which allegedly have ‘no side-effects’) adversely react with prescription drugs.
Insist on a bill from the pharmacist. The bill must clearly mention the batch number of the drug and the name of the prescribing doctor. The pharmacist may insist on a prescription if you insist on a bill. I know this is India … but the law is the law. If a particular drug requires a prescription, you get one. Period.
Besides, this is India, and there are naughty people who make spurious drugs. Get a prescription. Get a bill. And don’t lose them.
Always check the expiry date on the label – especially for sterile products like eye drops or injections. If the date is illegible simply refuse to buy the drug.
Beware of OTC’s!
Over-the-counter drugs, by law, do not need a prescription. Cold remedies, certain painkillers, syrups and the like are legally advertised in the media and sold over the counter.
That doesn’t make them safe. Many of them do have adverse effects.
Phenylpropanolamine (PPA), used in many OTC cold remedies has been recently banned in the US since it can cause a stroke in some people. Chlorpheniramine maleate (CPM), also found in cold remedies, can cause palpitations. Many OTC anti-allergy remedies can cause intense drowsiness.
There’s plenty of reliable information available, so ask your pharmacist before buying any OTC drug. Most pharmacists have reference books in their shops.
Various types of aids are available for forgetful people. These include medication calendars, instruction sheets, color-coded bottles and calendar trays. Many of these knick-knacks are given away to doctors by medical reps, so shamelessly ask your doctor
Do not ever change dosage without informing your doctor. Don’t stop a medicine because you think it isn’t working. Some drugs have to be taken for several days before they work. Conversely, don’t stop just because you feel better. Some drugs, like antibiotics, have to be continued to prevent a relapse.
If you miss a dose, do tell your doctor. Call the doctor promptly if an unusual reaction occurs.
Keep your drugs in their original containers to prevent confusion.
Just destroy any expired medicines in your cabinet. Only an irresponsible moron will donate expired drugs to charity. Drugs are not recyclable.
And please don’t get carried away by any ‘side-effects’ hype.
Modern drugs are effective and safe, when used responsibly. They save lives, including those of people who swear by ‘alternative’ medicine.
Listen to your doctor and to your pharmacist. And get a good dose of your own medicine.
Stay healthy. Stay safe. As Nature intended.
Cheers … Srini.