American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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Top 10 medication errors

By Ingrid Palmer

Most internists would agree that it is both safe and common to prescribe acetaminophen to patients receiving anticoagulant therapy, but the risks and dangers involved in doing so may surprise many, according to Douglas S. Paauw, FACP. A professor of medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, Dr. Paauw will be the presenter later today at a session on the top 10 medication errors and how to avoid them.

"Knowing how to use drugs safely and wisely is about the most important thing we do," Dr. Paauw said, noting that 10% of all hospitalized patients are impacted by adverse drug reactions.

Using a case-based format, Dr. Paauw will lead his audience through problems that are either "incredibly common" or have been covered by the media in the past year. The audience will attempt to solve the problems, vote on the outcomes and view the compiled answers on screen. They'll then go through the facts of each case.

At the session, Dr. Paauw plans to sift through the myths and realities of side effects from statin drugs and provide insight into the various drugs that interact with warfarin. He'll also examine what medications worsen heart failure.

"One of the recent major issues is drug interactions that involve absorption of other drugs or absorption of vitamins and nutrients," Dr. Paauw explained, adding that he will talk about recently publicized issues regarding the absorption of thyroid hormones and calcium.

The information in this session is extremely important, Dr. Paauw said, because internists prescribe so many drugs on a daily basis and there is potential for encountering medication issues in almost every patient interaction. Dr. Paauw's interest in drug interactions was initially spurred by his failure to find someone on his faculty who could address the issue for a board review course 15 years ago. He has been researching and lecturing on this topic ever since.

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