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Make Sure Your Heart Medicines Help, Not Hurt

Heart patients don’t leave the hospital empty-handed. They go home with prescription drugs intended to help their health. But a new study finds that as many as half have trouble taking these medications correctly during the first month—and about one-third experience harmful effects.’

If you have heart problems, your doctor may prescribe several medicines. These may include drugs to expand your blood vessels, prevent your blood from clotting, lower your cholesterol, and relieve pain.

But to do this, they need to be used correctly. Misuse of these drugs can result in harmful effects, including nosebleeds, low blood glucose, and recurring heart symptoms.

In the new study, more than half of 851 heart patients experienced drug mistakes when leaving the hospital. Almost one-fourth of errors were described as serious, and nearly 2 percent were life-threatening. The results were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Older Patients at Higher Risk

 

Medication mistakes in the study included doctors not prescribing the right drugs and patients skipping or taking the wrong doses. Those most likely to experience such errors include:

  • Older adults
  • People with difficulty thinking or learning
  • Those prescribed multiple drugs or high-risk drugs

But all patients—even those with a good understanding of health issues—were at risk. Even getting extra help from a pharmacist didn’t always help.

Take Drug Safety in Your Own Hands

 

To prevent these errors from happening to you:

  • Make a list of all the medicines you take. This includes prescription drugs, vitamins, and supplements. Take it to all your doctor visits.
  • Try to fill all your prescriptions at one pharmacy.
  • Don’t skip doses or split pills to save money. If you can’t afford a medicine, talk with your doctor or pharmacist about less-costly options or assistance programs.
  • Use tools or triggers to remember to take your drugs. For instance, take them at mealtime, or use a calendar or day-by-day pillbox.

The National Institute on Aging has more tips on managing your medications at http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/medicines-use-them-safely.

If you have questions about heart medications, be sure to talk to your Rite Aid pharmacist.

 

Sources

“Cardiac Medications.” American Heart Association, May 1, 2012. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/PreventionTreatmentofHeartAttack/Cardiac-Medications_UCM_303937_Article.jsp.

“Effect of a Pharmacist Intervention on Clinically Important Medication Errors After Hospital Discharge: A Randomized Trial.” S. Kripalani et al. Annals of Internal Medicine. July 3, 2012, vol. 157, no. 1, pp. 1-10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22751755.

“Medicines: Use Them Safely.” National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, July 1, 2011. http://www.nia.nih.gov/print/health/publication/medicines-use-them-safely .