The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 82 percent of American adults take at least one medication and 29 percent take at least five medications.
Although many of these medications are taken safely and without cause for concern, as many as 1.3 million emergency department visits and 350,000 hospitalizations occur every year due to what are known as “adverse drug events.” It’s also estimated that over $3.5 billion is spent annually as a result of these adverse drug events.
Every year on October 21, National Check Your Meds Day is observed to help reduce the number of adverse drug events. It’s a day to take stock of what medications you or a loved one are taking, what medications can be adjusted, and what you should do if you’re concerned about your medications.
Why Medication Safety is so Important
Adverse drug events that result in hospitalizations and emergency room visits are usually caused by the following:
- Allergic reactions
- Unexpected or severe side effects
- Overmedication and/or unexpected reactions due to the mixture of medications
- Medication errors
Though many people who experience adverse drug events never need to make a trip to the hospital, the reality is that improperly mixed medication or unexpected allergic reactions can lead to severe illness or even death in some cases.
Why Adverse Drug Events Are Likely to Rise Over the Years
The CDC has indicated that it expects adverse drug events to rise in the future due to a variety of factors, including the development of new medications, an aging population, and the expansion of insurance coverage for prescription medications.
This doesn’t mean that the future of your medication has to be any less safe, however, and you can take steps to limit your risk of experiencing an adverse drug event — that’s what Check Your Meds Day is all about!
How to Check Your Medicines
Taking some time to check your medications is a small step that can make a big difference in your health. If you just take one medication prescribed by a doctor, you likely aren’t at much risk for any issues; however, if you take multiple medications that were prescribed by several doctors, you’ll want to take some time to make sure what you’re taking isn’t going to lead to an adverse drug event.
Beyond taking a moment to carefully read through all of your medications’ directions, we recommend reaching out to your primary care doctor or a trusted pharmacist if any of the following are true:
- You’ve received prescriptions and take medications from multiple doctors
- You started taking over-the-counter drugs or dietary supplements after you received a prescription or you didn’t tell your doctor you were already taking them
- You’ve been taking your medication for several months and aren’t sure if you need to keep taking them
It’s also a good time to ask your doctor or pharmacist if they can offer any generic alternatives to medications you’re currently taking. Your healthcare provider will definitely recommend what they feel is the best medication for you to take, but if lower-cost alternatives are available, it might be an opportunity for you to save some money, too.
Need to check your medications but don’t have a primary care provider to turn to? Schedule an appointment at UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Primary Care, conveniently located in La Plata, MD, by calling (301) 609-5044 today.