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Questions to Pharmacists Rise After Michael Jackson's Death

Consumers more alert to overdose risks from prescription drugs, survey suggests

THURSDAY, July 9 (HealthDay News) -- News reports about a possible link between pop star Michael Jackson's death and his alleged abuse of prescription drugs may have increased the public's concern about prescription medication overdose risks, suggests a survey of U.S. pharmacists.

Of the more than 200 respondents who work in home, ambulatory and chronic care practices, 28 percent of the pharmacists said patients have been asking more questions about the risks of prescription painkillers since Jackson's death on June 25.

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) survey was conducted on July 1.

"While circumstances surrounding Michael Jackson's cause of death are still speculative, the media attention has opened dialogue about the dangers of prescription drug abuse," ASHP president Lynnae M. Mahaney, said in a news release.

"Medications can make a tremendous difference for people suffering with chronic pain and these patients should seek treatment," she said. "However, these medications are extremely powerful and when used improperly they can cause serious harm, even death."

Pharmacists, especially those trained in pain management, can assist patients by guiding them towards pain therapy that can minimize their risks for abuse and addiction, according to the ASHP.

The group offers the following safety tips for patients:

  • Compile a list of your medications so that you can keep track of which medicines you're taking, including the doses and frequency, and make the list available to your pharmacist and other health care providers.
  • Fill all of your prescriptions at one pharmacy, or use those with interconnected computer systems so that they can access your records and check for adverse drug interactions between different medications you're taking.
  • If you have questions about your medications, ask your pharmacist.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers a guide to the safe use of pain medications.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, news release, July 7, 2009

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