This article is best recommended for: Wrongful death attorneys, product liability lawyers, drug product liability injury firms and medical malpractice lawyers.

Over 100,000 people in the United States die every year due to adverse drug reactions (ADR). Over 2 million people experience an ADR every year. Providing your physician with the right information may save your life.

ADRs negatively affect the quality of a persons life and may cause death. The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), an agency of The Food and Drug Administration(FDA), also reports ADRs are the fourth leading cause of death in this country. This is ahead of lung disease, AIDS, pneumonia, diabetes, accidents and automobile deaths. Nursing home patients experience ADRs at the alarming rate of 350,000 annually. The CDER has further clarified anyone receiving ambulatory care is not counted in these figures. Ambulatory care is defined as any outpatient healthcare provider, including routine doctor visits.

This is a serious concern, considering 2.8 billion prescriptions were filled in the U.S., in the year 2000, according to the CDER. This is about 10 prescriptions for every person in the United States. The rate of ADRs increases exponentially after a patient is on four or more medications. The definition of a medication also includes the use of vitamins, supplements, and over-the-counter medications. If you take three vitamins a day and only one prescription medication, you are at a higher risk. Furthermore, drug interactions are an important contributor to the number of Emergency Room visits and hospital admissions every year.

Even scarier, these findings are only estimates. These estimates are based on health care providers reporting the incidents of adverse drug reactions to the FDA. The CDER clearly states, in their online education module for health care providers, “The exact number of ADRs is not certain and is limited by methodological considerations. However, whatever the number is, ADRs represent a significant public health problem that is, for the most part, preventable.”

Follow this list of helpful tips to reduce your risk.

Carry a list of all the over the counter and prescribed medications, supplements, vitamins and herbals you take.
Provide this list to all of your doctors and healthcare providers.
Keep your list up to date and inform your primary care doctor every time you add or subtract an item.
Provide a list of all treating providers to every doctor and therapist you see.
Ask your pharmacist to provide you with a medication information sheet with each prescription and read the side effects and interactions.
Use one pharmacist for all of you medication needs and keep them up to date.

The most important initiative a person can take in prevention is communication. Even when it seems the health care provider isn’t interested or listening, tell them and keep telling them. This may be the difference between living and dying.

About Heather L. Ryan, RN, CLNC – Heather Ryan is a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant with 15 years of experience in the health care industry. She works with personal injury lawyers specializing in wrongful death, product liability law firms, drug product liability injury firms and medical malpractice lawyers.

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