Archive for the ‘Medications’ Category

Safe Ways to Dispose of Unused Drugs

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

By:  Christine Stone, RN, BSN

If you’re like most people, you probably have unused or expired medications in your closet.   What do you usually do with those medications?   Again, if you’re like most people, you probably just flush them down the toilet or pour them down the drain.  Easy enough, right?    Think again.  

Drugs can get into our water supply in a variety ways.   Households, hospitals, nursing homes, and even some pharmaceutical companies pour drugs down the drain.   Manufacturing companies regularly dump by-products into rivers and streams.  Farms and ranches give animals antibiotic and hormone-laced feed.    And ALL of these toxins are landing in our water supply.

Sewage and water treatment plants are able to remove harmful bacteria and some other impurities from our drinking water, but they are NOT equipped to filter out drugs.  As a result, some pharmaceutical pollution does wind up in our drinking water.   It’s possible that ingesting even very small amounts of these drugs could, over time, affect your health.   Pretty scary, right?

The drugs being poured down the drain are affecting the fish.   For example water sources polluted with hormones such as estrogen (birth control pills) are producing fish with both male and female characteristics.   This is having a negative impact on the fishes’ ability to reproduce.

New guidelines encourage responsible drug disposal for hospitals and nursing homes.   Companies are also under closer scrutiny of their use and disposal of chemicals.

What can YOU do?

  • Do not flush unused medicines or pour down the drain. Instead, throw medications into the trash.   Medications disposed of this way will be incinerated or buried in landfills.   Not ideal, but better than pouring down the drain.
  • Do not buy medications in bulk (large quantities).
  • Use your community’s drug take back program. Take back programs are organized by state and local government, and some private institutions including pharmacy chains. There are over 6,000 such locations around the United States.    These programs allow you to drop off your unused drugs for proper disposal.   I recommend that you first remove any personal identification from the medication containers.   In my community, drugs can be dropped off at the township building – no questions asked.  

In summary, we don’t know the full level of harm to humans from the current levels of drugs in our drinking water.  But why contribute to the likely pollution?    I urge you adopt the easy recommendations listed above.   It’s one of the many ways you can help your fellow man, and also a few fish!

Brand Name Drugs vs Generic Drugs – Which is Better for You?

Monday, October 30th, 2017

By: Christine Stone, RN, BSN

If you watch TV you’ve probably seen all those commercials for drugs claiming to be the next best thing for any variety of medical conditions from diabetes to dementia to toe fungus. You name the disease, there’s probably a new medication being advertised. Yes, we are very fortunate to have new medications and therapies available to us. But the cost to develop, test, and advertise new drugs can run in the multi-millions of dollars, and are therefore, very expensive. And while name brand name drugs are effective, they can be very costly to you, the consumer, and may not be covered by your prescription plan. So what’s the answer? Generic Drugs.
If you’re like most people who take prescription medications, you know how costly those medications can be.
But should cost be the primary deciding factor when choosing a generic medication over a name brand medication? This is an important discussion to have with your healthcare providers. Let’s look at the differences.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carefully regulates the development and testing of new drugs. Once a drug has been tested and proven safe for humans, it is patented, manufactured and prescribed by physicians. The patent on new drugs is about 20 years. This prevents copycat (generic) drugs from being manufactured in any form or dosage. Once the patent has expired, other companies can legally manufacture generic versions of the drug. The FDA makes sure generic drugs have the same chemical structure as the name brand drug.

Are generic drugs as effective as brand name drugs? The answer is Yes and No.
Once a drug is more affordable, many more people will be taking the drug. This means that rare problems with the drug could emerge that were not evident when the drug was first tested. This is one main reason people are wary of generic drugs. There are also rare situations where a person’s body chemistry is different from that of the average person which alters the drug’s effectiveness for that person. In this case, the brand name medication is the better choice. For most people, the generic drug is perfectly acceptable.

In summary, talk with your health care providers when deciding the best medications for you. Don’t be shy about asking if you need the brand name drug. I have found that most providers are sensitive to patient costs and are very willing to order generic drugs. Remember – you always have the right to know and be informed about any medication or test being prescribed for you.

How one Colombian family could solve some of Alzheimer’s mysteries

Monday, November 28th, 2016

By Liz Desantis 
November 28, 2016

It’s easy to think that the mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease will be revealed in the high-tech hallways of US medical centers and research institutes. But new discoveries are coming from far-off places like Medellín, Colombia, which may be ground zero for finding the genetic basis of this dreaded neurodegenerative disease that strips people of memories and destroys personalities.

To continue reading…  Alzheimers Disease Columbia

Is new Alzheimer’s drug a ‘game-changer?

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

by Liz DeSantis

An experimental drug shattered and removed toxic plaques in the brains of patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, researchers said Thursday.

Given to patients once a month for a year, infusions of the drug aducanumab cleared the brain of the deposits, which experts believe play a crucial role in disrupting cellular processes and blocking communication among nerve cells.

Is New Alzheimer’s Drug…

Partner with Your Physician to Manage Your Medications

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Should seniors that are taking multiple medications actively manage those medications or depend on their health care provider(s) to keep track of the medications and possible interactions when adding new ones? A reader recently asked Dr. K. on that question and we’ve included the full post for your reference below.

Dear Doctor K: I’m in my 70s. Like many women my age, I’m on several medications. Should I be actively managing them? Or can I leave that to my doctor?

Dear Reader:
Many older adults are on a number of medications, prescribed to treat different health conditions. Yet each medication you take has the potential to interact — sometimes dangerously — with another. And if you see specialists for various health conditions, your medications may be prescribed by several different doctors.

If that’s the case, work with your primary care physician (PCP) to manage your medications. That means reviewing all of them with your PCP at every visit. Make sure to tell him or her about pills prescribed by specialists as well as over-the-counter drugs and supplements. Your doctor can make sure each drug is appropriate for you, and check that your medications don’t interact with one another.

At any medical visit, your doctor may suggest starting a new medication or changing the dose of one you already take. But time constraints may prevent your doctor from providing a detailed explanation of why, and what to expect. So you need to take the initiative.

My colleague Dr. Anne Fabiny is chief of geriatrics at Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance and editor in chief of Harvard Women’s Health Watch. She recommends asking lots of questions.

First, make sure you understand why the doctor is suggesting the medication, and what it is going to do. Ask what adverse effects the drug might have, and which ones warrant a call to your doctor. Find out how long you’ll be on the medicine. And check back in with your doctor after a few weeks to let him or her know how you’re doing.

Here is a list of 10 questions to ask your doctor every time you get a new prescription:

  • Why are you prescribing this drug?
  • How is it supposed to treat my condition?
  • Has it been tested and found to be safe and effective for people my age?
  • What side effects might it have, and what should I do if I have any of them?
  • At what dose are you starting me, and why?
  • Will you eventually increase or lower the dose?
  • Is there a lower-cost generic alternative to this drug available?
  • Can you put me on a drug regimen that will be easier for me to take (for example, once a day instead of several times a day)?
  • For how long do you want me to take this medicine?
  • What should I do when the medicine runs out? Will I need to refill the prescription, and if so, how can I get the new prescription from you?

If you’re thinking of stopping one of your medications, perhaps because of unpleasant side effects, let your doctor know first. You and your doctor can explore other options, such as lowering the dose or switching to a different drug.

When I was early in my training in internal medicine, I got my first lesson in how difficult it could be to make sure a patient was taking the right medicines. A patient of mine was getting medicines prescribed by several specialists — thirteen medications in all. At every visit I went over what I thought was the total list of her medicines, and she said I had it exactly right.

She was crippled by arthritis, so one day I made a home visit. She offered me some tea, and as we sat down at the dining room table I noticed a beautiful glass vase — full of pills. Her daughter told me that each morning she put her hand in the vase, grabbed a bunch of pills and swallowed them. She knew that she should take each pill as it was prescribed, but she felt “it would all work out OK in the end” the way she was doing it.

After she had gone into heart failure three times in three months, I (and her daughter) finally convinced her to take the medicines as prescribed. Her health improved.

Dr. Komaroff is a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School.