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FDA Medication Watch List

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Updated March 29, 2010

As of September 2008, the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) Center for Drug Evaluation and Research began posting medications with potential safety issues: the FDA Medication Watchlist. These are medications presenting significant dangers ranging from overdose due to labeling problems to cardiac arrest and death. Congress, in a drug safety bill, is insisting the FDA make this information available to prescribers and physicians. It stems from information gathered from the Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS).

This list will be updated quarterly and can be viewed on the FDA's website. Twenty medications are on the January 2008-March 2008 list. Many of the medications listed here have been known problems for a long time, but some (like the newer antidepressant Cymbalta) are new to the list. The FDA is warning patients not to stop taking medications because they appear on this list. Be sure to discuss your concerns with the physician prescribing each of your medications so they can evaluate your particular needs and find a suitable substitute where necessary.

You can take some simple measures to safely use medications in general.

  1. Read labels carefully. Take special note of the dosing instructions.
  2. Pay attention to side effects. Your doctor should warn you of common side effects, but for a complete list be sure to read the information sheet that comes with each medication. This is sometimes referred to as the "package insert."
  3. Ask about interactions. Be sure to ask your physician and/or the pharmacist about how a new medication may interact with one you are currently taking. There is also a site where you can compare medications and look for interactions. Review these with your physician.
  4. Treat all medications with respect. Even over-the-counter (OTC) medications can be dangerous. They interact with prescription drugs, too.
  5. Don't forget to consider side effects or interactions of herbs and supplements. We are gaining more and more insight all the time about how "natural" substances can interact with various medications, affecting the way they work in your body.
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