Another expert agreed.
"Most of the information we have about medication errors and their effect take place within the hospital setting," noted Lisa Killam-Worrall, director of drug information and assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy.
But she said there's a real challenge in finding out exactly what substances people might be taking along with their prescription medications.
"As pharmacists, we always try to counsel people when medications could interact with alcohol or other medications, but there aren't that many studies looking at interactions with street drugs," Killam-Worrall said. "We normally don't ask people, 'Are you using street drugs and which ones are you using?' We normally try to ask people, "What other medications are you taking, prescription, over-the-counter, herbal supplements?' But usually with illicit drug use, you're not going to garner a lot of information."
The findings also have policy implications in terms of patient care , Phillips added.
"Asking patients to be part of the quality-control team is not something you can just automatically do," he said. "It's true that keeping shorter times in hospitals saves money, but it apparently loses lives, and a way to try to ameliorate that would be to spend more time in educating the patient about the risks of taking these powerful medicines and the risks, particularly, of taking these powerful medicines in conjunction with alcohol and/or street drugs."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more on medication errors.
SOURCES: David P. Phillips, Ph.D., professor, sociology, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla; Lisa Killam-Worrall, Pharm.D., BCPS, director, drug informa
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