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The leading cause of accidental death is motor vehicle crashes. The next leading cause of accidental deaths is poisoning, particularly from overdoses of over-the-counter, prescription, and illicit drugs. Death by poisoning is the fastest rising cause of accidental death.

Researchers at the Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine recently did a study involving 119 patients, average 55 years-old, and asked them to name their anti hypertensive drugs, then compared their answers with the information in their medical files.

There was a gap between the medications patients ‘think’ they are taking, and in what dosage, and what is recorded in their medical files. In medical parlance this gap is known as “knowledge of medication gap” and the problem is expected to become worse as baby-boomers edge into their senior years.

To complicate the matter, it is common for a patient to see several medical specialists–all of which prescribe different medications. The result is that a patient may end up being prescribed medications that are counter-indicated with severe results. Patients sometimes take matters into their own hands and continue to fill old prescriptions even though the physician has changed dosages or the medication.

Some patients continue to use a drug even after the physician has told them to stop using it or the patient will stop using a medication that they should be taking.

Frequently, a patient will purchase their medications from various outlets. For example a patient may have a three month supply of one prescription filled online, then for short-term medication, like an antibiotic, will go to the corner pharmacy. Still, other patients shop for the best price for each medication both online and locally. The danger is that no one pharmacy is aware of all of the medications a patient may be taking (including over-the-counter medications). The result is that if there are any medications that are counter-indicated–causing harm to the patient–no one will know because no one source has all of the patient’s medication information.

The study suggests that you take all of the prescription containers you use (and any over-the-counter medications) with you on the next visit to your physician. It would not be a bad idea to do that with all of your physicians. It is also recommended that you write on a card all of the medications, dosages, and strengths and keep the card in your purse or wallet (include your doctors names and phone numbers).