Managing Debt

Medication Mishaps May Be Costing You Plenty

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As I was getting ready for my daily commute down the flight of stairs, a morning talk show interview stopped me in my tracks. No, it wasn’t the one Matt Lauer did with Ann Coulter, where she criticized some of the 9-11 widows. (Don’t get me started!)

What caught my attention was Charles Gibson’s interview with Doctors Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen on Good Morning America. The physicians reported that every year, some 40,000 people die and 1.3 million end up in serious trouble because of "medication mishaps."

Medication mishaps kill almost as many of us in a year as die from major diseases, like breast cancer. We’re spending billions a year on pills of various sorts, some of which may be killing or harming us. How can that be?!

Part of the problem is we don’t tell our doctors about the vitamins and natural remedies we’re taking. While we tend not to think that these supplements can cause harm, they do. They sure pinch in the pocketbook! If they’re not going to help and may even jeopardize your health, they’re a waste of money.

The doctors, authors of You: The Smart Patient : An Insider’s Handbook for Getting the Best Treatment (Free Press, 2006), provide some tips for what we can do to make sure we’re taking prescription meds correctly — and not mixing them with natural remedies that could make the medicine less effective or cause a bad reaction.

Here’s their best tip: We should all take better advantage of our pharmacists. They’re the ones who know the most about medications and supplements. What’s more:

  1. Pharmacists are required by law to give us their best advice
  2. We don’t have to pay a dime for it
  3. It might just save one of our lives. Priceless!

Tips for Getting the Most from Your Next Visit to the Pharmacy

  • Ask the pharmacist about any possible drug, food, or vitamin interactions.  For example, you shouldn’t mix antibiotics and calcium or cholesterol drugs with vitamins C or E.
  • Ask your doctor about using a generic brand of your prescription to reduce costs. Also ask for free sample any prescribed meds.
  • Keep your co-pay receipts for health savings account or flex plan reimbursement.
  • Don’t shop for medicine from foreign countries or strange websites. You could end up a victim or a scam or worse.
  • Use a credit card to pay for expensive medications, so at least you’ll be able to earn rewards. Remember to pay that balance off when the bill arrives!
  • Check to make sure you’re charged for and receive the correct prescription.
  • Shred prescription info before throwing it away.
  • Don’t ignore medical bills, they can quickly turn into damaging collection accounts

Let us know how you make out on your next visit to the drug store. You might save a pile of money … or you life!

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

  • Emma

    I play ball with a lady who just lost her grandchild due to a medication mishap. The baby was born with some heart issue that required surgery to repair. Although she made it through the surgery, about 2 weeks later she became horribly ill. She was taken to the emergency room and admitted that same night. The doctors could not figure out what was wrong and had her medication tested. As it turned out, the medicine she was prescribed was mislabeled. It was supposed to be refrigerated. The test results revealed that the medicine her parents had been giving their infant was full of streptococcus. The baby died a few days later.
    This was only a few months ago and are in the beginning stages of legal action.

  • Nancy Castleman

    That is so awful, Emma. I hope your friend has found an excellent lawyer. If she’s not sure, I’d suggest that she read this article by the great legal team at Nolo Press: “How to Find a Personal Injury Lawyer” –
    Since the article’s URl has 92 characters (!) I got one of those nifty tiny URLs for it:
    My deepest sympathy to your friend, and many thanks for taking the time to post.

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