Prince’s April 21, 2016, death from an accidental overdose of the painkiller fentanyl has shed a spotlight on the amount of Americans that die from prescription drug overdose and abuse. However, prescription drug abuse and overdose isn’t the biggest issue facing pharmaceutical companies. Prescription drugs are now a major health risk. Approximately 2.74 million people are being hospitalized in the United States annually due to serious adverse drug reactions. Adverse drug reactions now tie with stroke as the 4th leading cause of death.
The problem may only get worse as co-pays, co-insurance and the price of drugs or procedures not covered by plans increases. Furthermore, the size of the average deductible has more than doubled over the past eight years. When feeling ill Americans are choosing to self-medicate by using over the counter medicine without consulting a medical doctor to avoid the expense associated with visiting a physician’s office. Retail pharmacists are often too busy to answer questions from customers about over-the-counter drugs and the prescriptions the fill. In fact, a frequent response from retail pharmacists when asked about their responsibility to help reduce adverse drug reaction is that their job is to fill prescriptions not to prescribe or provide medical advice.
Patients can combat the health risk associated with prescription drugs by becoming their own healthcare advocates. Patients can become effective personal healthcare advocates by doing the following things.
- Patients should always bring a list of all the medicines including the over-the-counter drugs to the doctor’s office with them and ask the doctor to review it for potential adverse drug reactions before prescribing new medicine.
- Patients should request that a portion of annual doctor appointments be used to review the list of medicines including over-the-counter drugs they currently take.
- Patients should leverage technology like the MyRxProfile app that allows them to build custom lists with the prescription and over-the-counter medicines they are currently taking. When patients enter new prescriptions or over-the-counter medicines, MyRxProfile quickly identifies and alerts customers of potential negative drug interactions.
Adverse drug reactions will only reduce when consumers and patients become more informed and actively take responsibility for their health by becoming their own healthcare advocates. Patients have to take the lead in having open conversations with their doctors about the drugs that are being prescribed to them, and the potential adverse drug reactions that could potentially come from the prescribed drug(s).