It’s a good time to talk to patients about the potential risks of taking over-the- counter (OTC) cold and flu medication and other OTC or prescription analgesics and antipyretics concomitantly.
Cold and flu season is upon us. With many coughing, sniffling patients searching for relief in the pharmacy aisles, it’s a good time to talk to patients about the potential risks of taking over-the- counter (OTC) cold and flu medication and other OTC or prescription analgesics and antipyretics concomitantly.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers estimates that in 2016, 30% of unintentional pharmaceutical errors involved double-dosing, which is taking more than one medicine with the same active ingredient.1
As an example, some estimates indicate that 50 million Americans use medications containing acetaminophen each week. It is the most common drug ingredient in America-more than 500 OTC and prescription medicines contain acetaminophen. Given this, it is easy to see how patients could unknowingly duplicate ingredients and take too much, which can have dangerous consequences.2
Follow the Drug Facts Label
As pharmacists, we are all too aware that people rarely slow down and read the drug facts label in full. Below are safety tips to reinforce with your patients every cold and flu season:
Ask for Help
As always, encourage patients to call you or another health care professional if they have questions. Also remind them that if they think they may have taken too much of an active ingredient, tell them to get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center (800-222-1222) right away.
Kaelen Dunican, RPh, PharmD is a professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the School of Pharmacy-Worcester/Manchester, MCPHS University, in Worcester, MA. She has received consulting fees from Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc., McNeil Consumer Healthcare Division, which also supported Dr. Dunican in the development of this article.
1. American Association of Poison Control Centers Releases 33rd Annual Report of the National Poison Data System [news release]. Alexandria, Va. AAPC website. Accessed Oct. 19, 2017 http://www.aapcc.org/press/73/
2 Get the facts about acetaminophen. Knowyourdose.org. http://www.knowyourdose.org/get-the-facts/. Accessed October 19, 2017.