Much of medical care and treatment involves prescribing medications and pharmaceuticals. But taking the wrong medication can have serious or even fatal consequences.
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When doctors prescribe medications, they have a medical and legal duty to make sure the drugs will help and not harm the patient. Not all side effects can be known for all prescription drugs for all people – some things are out of our control.
But before prescribing a medication, a doctor must obtain all necessary information to determine:
- Potential allergies
- Doctors should ensure the patient has no known allergies to the medication
- for example, a patient allergic to penicillin should not be prescribed that for an infection
- Personal risks
- Doctors should ensure the patient is physically fit enough to handle that medication
- for example, a patient with heart problems is not prescribed a diabetes treatment that has high risk for increased heart rate
- Drug interactions
- Doctors should ensure the patient is not taking any other medications that will counteract the effects or that will negatively interact with the prescription, because many medications may be safe to take alone, but can become toxic if taken together;
- for example, combining an amphetamine for ADHD with a pharmaceutical like Wellbutrin that is used for depression and/or as a quitting smoking aid may increase the risk of seizures, which may occur rarely with either medication
- Patient education
- Medical professionals are responsible for ensuring that the patient has been educated about the risks of the medication and has been made aware of what side effects to watch out for or when an immediate follow-up with the doctor is necessary
- all medications have side effects, some more dangerous than others; and the FDA regularly issues warnings and even directs pharmaceutical companies to re-label their drugs to inform users of the potential harms