Med Safety Week 2020

Pharmacist explains the instructions on a box of medicine to an elderly lady

This week is Med Safety Week around the whole world.  As life expectancy increases, so too does the number of people who use multiple medications for extended periods.

The 2020 campaign focuses on polypharmacy and the safe use of medicines in the elderly or those with complex conditions.  Polypharmacy is defined as the concurrent use of multiple medicines.  While polypharmacy can be beneficial, pharmacists are acutely aware that people taking more medicines can face increased risk of unwanted side effects.

What is pharmacovigilance?  Being on the lookout for unwanted side effects of medicines constantly and being able to explain them in the context of the patient history.

Why is pharmacovigilance important?  Different people may react differently to the same medication.  It is important to report any side effects that you feel might be associated with starting a new medication.  It becomes more difficult once you are on multiple medications but that’s when you involve your doctor and pharmacist and we are able to monitor the effects within the context of your current medical conditions.  Please don’t ever feel as though you are being a bother by mentioning that you are experiencing unwanted effects since taking the medicines.  Letting your pharmacist or doctor know about it is essential.

When your unwanted effects are reported officially to the Centre of Adverse Reaction Monitoring in New Zealand (CARM), the collective reporting effect is able to tell a story.  Practicing pharmacovigilance requires all health professionals in NZ to contribute to that story, to advocate for you, the patient.

“Coming together is a beginning.  Keeping together is progress.  Working together is success.”      Henry Ford