The dangers of mixing medicines

CHOICE investigates adverse events associated with medication and what can be done to prevent them.
 
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05.Case study

Repeat scripts spark alarm

Taking his father for a medicine review revealed a major flaw in prescribing practices. Andrew Ross* tells his story.

“My late father was an elderly man with his faculties intact. He used to line up all his medications and take them one or two at a time, depending on the instructions. After one series of dosages, he would line up the next and set his alarm clock so as not to forget, and so on. He knew why he was taking each medication, and showed me his bathroom cabinet which was full of nothing but medicines.”

Despite his father’s objections, Andrew made an appointment for both of them to see his father’s doctor.

"At this appointment I asked the doctor what medications my father should currently be taking. The doctor named four, all for managing his blood pressure and blood coagulation. I then told the doctor how many and what medications my father was taking regularly. The doctor was dumbfounded and asked dad why. Dad replied, ‘I had the repeats and you never said to stop taking them’."

The doctor then alerted everyone in the practice to their duty of care regarding prescribing medications, particularly repeat prescriptions. The doctor had assumed patients would stop taking one medicine when prescribed another.

“The doctor, a GP who specialises in geriatrics, has since discussed this with his peers and discovered almost none told patients when to stop taking medicines, unless there was a contraindication,” says Andrew.

* Not his real name

 

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