November 29, 2016
Cold and flu season is upon us, which means patients will be looking for medications to treat their symptoms.
Seven out of 10 Americans use over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to treat their cold and flu symptoms each year, many of which contain acetaminophen, according to the Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition (AAC), a diverse group of leading health, healthcare provider and consumer organizations committed to ensuring that acetaminophen is used safely.
As an independent community pharmacy, it’s important that your business makes patients aware of the potential dangers that can result from an acetaminophen overdose.
Follow these tips to help ensure your patients safely use medications to treat their cold and flu symptoms.
Patients need to understand the uses for medications that contain acetaminophen, and the recommended doses.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends taking no more than 4,000 milligrams of acetaminophen in a 24-hour period. Taking more than the directed dose of acetaminophen can lead to serious health complications, including liver damage.
And, many patients are unaware they’re taking more than one medication—prescription and OTC—with acetaminophen. Common OTC medications patients purchase that contain acetaminophen include Tylenol® and Nyquil®, while common prescription medications that contain acetaminophen include Vicodin® and Percocet®.
When helping patients choose an OTC product to treat their symptoms, let them know which ones contain acetaminophen and review the directed dose with them. Ask the patient if he’s currently taking any prescription medications with acetaminophen—or review his medication list—to avoid an overdose.
Although acetaminophen is safe and effective when taken as directed, there’s a limit on how much can be consumed in a single day. Print out the following steps, hang them in your store and post a copy on your checkout counter.
The AAC recommends patients follow these four steps to use acetaminophen safely:
1. Always read and follow the label
2. Know if your medicines contain acetaminophen
3. Take only one medicine at a time that contains acetaminophen
4. Ask a healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have any questions
Parents also need to take precautions when administering medications with acetaminophen to children.
When patients visit your pharmacy to purchase cold and flu medicines for their children, be sure to discuss the dosing instructions and potential dangers with them. This is especially important for children under the age of two, as a health care provider should determine the dosage.
Remind patients that acetaminophen dosing is different for children than for adults, and make sure to review their child’s medication regimen before recommending any products that contain acetaminophen.
To ensure the acetaminophen medications patients take are safe and effective, they should be disposed of properly when expired or unwanted.
Many pharmacies and police departments sponsor medicine take-back days in the community, so patients can easily dispose of these medications.
You can also encourage safe disposal by starting a medication disposal program at your pharmacy. A disposal program can prevent unsafe or ineffective drug usage, and it can also differentiate your pharmacy and protect the environment.
Additionally, inform patients that they can dispose of these drugs on their own. The FDA recommends mixing medicines with an unpalatable substance, placing the mixture in a sealed container and throwing the container in the trash.
Follow these tips to prepare your pharmacy for cold and flu season.