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Doctor advises patients to become informed Rx consumers

SPRINGFIELD "Becoming a more informed consumer about your prescription medications will allow you to derive the most benefit from them and to help avoid medication errors," said Dr. Randolph Peto, medical director, Division of Healthcare Quality at Baystate Medical Center.

Problems associated with medications are among the most common safety risks for patients. Improving the safety of using medications is one of the national patient safety goals for January 2006 established by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, and Baystate Health, as a national leader in patient safety, aims to increase medication safety among patients and the public.

"For example, the issue of financially challenged seniors skipping or halving doses is a significant problem today," said Peto. "We must get the message out that not following instructions when taking medications can pose a grave danger to patients."

Peto, along with his colleagues at Baystate, is encouraging all patients and the general public as part of their New Year's Resolutions to take a more active role in improving medication safety for themselves and loved ones.

"Medication errors can occur in various settings including at the doctor's office, at the pharmacy, in the hospital, and at home," Peto said.

"Aside from checking that your prescription has been filled correctly by the pharmacist, there are several ways consumers can protect themselves related to medications," he added.

Among the "Top Five" safety tips offered by Dr. Peto regarding prescription medications are:

1. Use one pharmacy for all your medications. This will allow your pharmacist to check for drug interactions.

2. Always carry a list of your current medications, including herbal supplements and over-the-counter drugs. Be sure your doctor knows about all of these medications when prescribing new ones. The list is also helpful in emergency situations.

3. Consult with your doctor before stopping any medications, changing the amount you take, missing a dose, or adding herbal supplements.

4. When you are prescribed a new drug, know when and how to take it and what the purpose of the medication is. Repeat the instructions you have been given back to the nurse, physician or pharmacist who is helping you.

5. Monitor any possible side effects and contact your doctor or healthcare provider if you experience any unusual symptoms that begin after taking your new medication.

"It is our hope at Baystate Health that our patients and the community begin the new year with more knowledge about medication safety, and that they use these tips to have a healthier and safer 2006 concerning their medications," Peto said.

For any questions about your medications or medication safety, call The Professionals at 413-794-2255 or outside the Springfield calling area at 1-800-377-HEALTH.