Ahead of Be MedicineWise Week next week, one pharmacist has outlined some of the most common medicine errors and how consumers can avoid them

Discount Drug Stores national pharmaceuticals manager and pharmacist, and regular AJP contributor Stephenie Shea has warned consumers that “seemingly innocent” mistakes can harm their health.

The misuse of prescription medicine has recently been declared a “national emergency,” says DDS.

Ms Shea says the six most common mistakes are:

Using a kitchen spoon to measure liquid medicine

Seventy-three per cent of people reach for a kitchen spoon to measure their liquid medicine, she says, pointing out the high risk of an incorrect dosage using this method.

“Whilst household spoons are handy for giving children medication, the lack of accuracy when using them could lead to potential medicine overdoses,” says Ms Shea.

She advises consumers that the best way to take liquid medication is with the measuring device that comes with your medication.

Grapefruit can interact dangerously with more than 50 drugs

Grapefruit is full of nutrients and is part of many health diets, however the fruit has been found to interact negatively with more than 50 medications, including those commonly used for high cholesterol and blood pressure.

“There are compounds within grapefruit that interact with, or block particular enzymes that are needed to metabolize particular drugs.  As a result this impacts how easily some medications are absorbed by the body,” Ms Shea says.

She encourages consumers to read warning labels to see if their medication is susceptible to the effects of grapefruit.

“Other citrus fruit would be a good alternative if they’re not contraindicated with your medications. Peaches and mango are also tasty and fresh alternatives!”

Alcohol interacts with over 150 medicines  

Alcohol can have a harmful effect when combined with prescription medication, over-the-counter drugs and even some herbal remedies, she warns.

“In some cases, mixing alcohol and medication can render the medication ineffective,” says Ms Shea. “Taking antihistamines for an allergy and drinking alcohol will, for example, increase the drowsiness already caused by the medication.”

She advises consumers to observe warning and consumption labels and directs them to talk to pharmacists to see if the medication is safe to use with alcohol.

Time matters

Ms Shea stressed the importance of taking medicines at the right time and establishing a routine around this.

She encouraged consumers to consult with doctors or pharmacists when changing medication timing, using certain high blood pressure medications which are most effective when taken before dinner as an example.

“This should be taken seriously.”

Storing all medication in medicine cabinets

Ms Shea warns of high temperatures and humidity in bathrooms, making them a less suitable place to store medicines.

She highlighted the importance of keeping medication in a cool, dry place such as bedrooms or kitchens, away from stoves and hot appliances, and keeping medicine in its original container to retain instructions and warnings.

Expired medicines can be flushed down the toilet

Ms Shea pointed out that medicines discarded down sinks and toilets will enter waterways and impact marine life.

She encouraged consumers to frequently review their medication and its expiry date and return expired products to a community pharmacy for disposal.

Pharmacists can also be on the lookout for particularly old examples, as AJP has teamed up with RUM to ‘Search for Australia’s Oldest Medicines’.