Prevention Better than Cure for Medication Problems

Published March 1, 2001

By applying the timely tincture of common sense, it is possible to reduce the risks presented by medications. Avoiding medication problems is better than managing them later.

Here are some easy recommendations:

  • Be patient with your symptoms, and your symptoms may become patient with you.
  • “Instant relief’ can lead to “instant complications”! Sometimes it’s better to endure the mild symptoms (such as mild cough, fever, runny nose, or pain) than to try to feel better instantly. Give your normal bodily defense mechanisms a chance to work.
  • Avoid sleeping pills, pain pills, and nerve pills if at all possible. They have many side effects and usually don’t cure the problem.
  • Changing lifestyle is better than medication. For example, you may love pickles—which are loaded with salt—but if your body retains fluids, your life will be much less complicated if you cut down on your pickle consumption instead of taking a diuretic (water pill).
  • Minimize the variety and quantity of optional, non-prescription drugs you take.
  • Keep your doctor advised of all medications. Make a list of all medications, vitamins, and supplements—and check it twice. The list should include name, use, prescribed or recommended dosage, and how often you really take every pill, tablet, etc.
  • Update your list every time you see a new doctor; change, add, or subtract medications; and alter dosages.
  • Make sure your physician sees your list with each visit. Have it ready to save valuable time, particularly during the for-profit managed care eight-minute office visit.
  • Make sure your physician keeps a copy of your medication list in your file.
  • Ask your pharmacist to check for drug interactions every time you get a new prescription.
  • Try to minimize the number of pharmacies you use, and keep your pharmacist up-to-date on the medications you take. If you use several pharmacies, note that their computers generally do not connect to other pharmacy chains . . . and often don’t connect to computers within their own network of pharmacies.
  • Avoid overuse of alcohol. Although Irish playwright Brendan Behan once quipped, “There’s no such thing as a large whiskey,” his liver did give out before he was 40.

Michael Arnold Glueck, MD has written extensively on medical and legal reform issues. Robert J Cihak, MD is president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).