Women should investigate their prescription drugs

Prescription drugs can benefit women in various ways but also can hold silent dangers if not taken properly, warnings are not heeded, or severe side effects occur. According to an article in the April McCall's, there are 3,200 different prescription drugs currently available.

One million people in the United States are hospitalized every year for prescription drug problems, and every woman has a 26% chance of being hospitalized for a prescription-related problem, the article states. Some patients and doctors tend to have a view of these medications that is too positive. Because some drugs can produce beneficial short-term results, doctors and patients think it should produce a positive long-term effect as well. That's not always the case.

Another risk factor for prescription medications is that they are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in Bethesda, MD, for consumer use before their risks are fully assessed, the author of the article maintains. Two recent examples involve Redux and Pondimin. After being available for years - Pondimin for almost 25 - they were taken off the market last year when tests reported to the FDA revealed possible damage to heart valves in almost one-third of patients who were checked.

For women to ensure their own safety when taking prescription medications, the article recommends they have a sensible attitude and learn all they can about the medication to begin with. They can keep a medication register by writing down the following about each medicine: chemical name, brand name, dose, when to take it, and any special instructions for the medication. The author suggests that women take the register when they see a doctor, especially if it is a new one or a specialist.

Next, weigh the benefits against the side effects and decide if they are worth it, the article advises. Patients can talk to their doctor and see if there is something else that can be taken with fewer side effects.

Other tips women should follow include obtaining a drug-disclosure statement from the pharmacist and reading the warning section of the drug label. They should check the dosage and administration of the medication and make sure the amount they are supposed to take falls into the recommended dosage range. Patients should discuss any questions or feelings they have about the medications with their doctor or pharmacist.