Be Mindful: Monitor Medications

by Kim Keller

I’m reading a terrific book called Top Screwups Doctors Make And How To Avoid Them.  It was written by Joe and Dr. Teresa Graedon, a married team of pharmacology experts who’ve written numerous books on drug and health information, including the New York Times bestseller, The People’s Pharmacy.  The Graedons have also penned syndicated columns for almost 30 years for newspapers across the country.

Top Screwups is a practical guide for preventing medical errors, a subject that Karen and I became much too familiar with in the last decade when we witnessed firsthand how even well-intentioned medical professionals can make dangerous mistakes when they prescribe and administer meds.  We watched it happen to both of our parents — repeatedly.

In Top Screwups, the Graedons mention a report called, “Preventing Medication Errors,” compiled by The Institute of Medicine, which states, “There are at least 1.5 million preventable ADEs [Adverse Drug Events] that occur in the United States each year.  The true number may be much higher.”

To help combat that frightening statistic. the Graedons recommend a website called, a free and easy-to-use service that reviews the potentially dangerous interaction of prescription drugs that your parent or loved one may be currently taking.  I was curious about this site so I decided to sign my mom up.  I provided a list of her medications (prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and herbs), along with other required information like her gender, age and zip code, and within a few minutes I received back an informative and easy-to-read report, the purpose of which is to alert the reader to any potential problems with drug interactions.  But the report goes even further:  it ranks the severity of the risk, notes the side effects for each medication, and points out the possibility of counterproductive interactions — when one prescription might be making another less effective.

As the site is not affiliated with any pharmaceutical company or insurance corporation, their reports tend to carry weight and credibility.  I also found the patient feedback section very useful.  Posted with each drug, the feedback section provides unsolicited reports from readers on the effectiveness and side effects of that particular substance.  I was also very happy to discover that MediGuard will send me an email alert if there is any urgent issue regarding my mother’s medications.

Karen and I are both passionate about avoiding unnecessary medication errors and, more to the point, about avoiding unnecessary medications.  Although we’ve had many pointed conversations with our mother’s doctors, as well as her pharmacist, this information from the Graedons and has inspired us to approach her doctors once again about reducing her medication load even further.

For more information about how to prevent medication errors, please check out the In Care of DadWatch Medications” section.  The Graedons’ website,, named after their first bestselling book, is also worth checking out.

You just can’t be too vigilant where meds are concerned.

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