Stories about: prescription medication

Mapping a way to medication adherence

Eighteen-year-old Maggie Mansfield, a communications major at Boston College, is a two-time double-lung transplant recipient — once, at age 4, due to a condition called pulmonary hypertension in which blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs is abnormally high, and again at age 7, when her body rejected the first transplant. Since then, Maggie has remained relatively healthy due in part to her strict medication regimen.

Maggie Mansfield
Maggie Mansfield

“Timing is the most challenging part of taking my medications,” Maggie says. “As I get older, I get busier. It’s not always easy to stop what I am doing and take my pills, but I try to keep my timing the same so I don’t throw off my labs.”

Medication adherence is critical to the long-term health of an organ recipient. But taking upwards of 20 medications per day is often overwhelming, particularly for adolescents and young adults as they become more independent.

“I equate it to learning how to drive a car,” says Kristine McKenna, PhD, a psychologist in the Boston Children’s Hospital Pediatric Transplant Center. “We don’t just toss over the keys. There are a lot of steps to learning — getting a learner’s permit, practicing driving with a parent. And, again, we don’t just send them out to drive across the country when they get their license.”

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Are parents’ prescriptions poisoning kids?

Every parent knows how hard it can be to keep their prescription drugs safely away from their children. But with the increase in adult prescription drugs in the home, that problem is getting harder to manage. Today, more and more young kids are accidentally taking their parents’ pills, and more and more teens are intentionally raiding the medicine cabinet. This has led to rising rates of poisonings in children, according to a study

published in the July 2013 issue of Pediatrics. (Adult Prescription Drug Use and Pediatric Medication Exposures and Poisonings)

Two of the study’s authors, Lindsey C. Burghardt, MD, and Florence T. Bourgeois, MD, MPH, became interested in the subject based on their real-life experiences as pediatric emergency medicine doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital. Burghardt reports that they noticed what seemed to be an increase in children and adolescents coming to the emergency room who had been poisoned by prescription medications. “When we began to research the problem of pediatric medication poisonings, we learned that adult prescriptions are also increasing.  We began to wonder if these things were related.”

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The dangers of drug sharing

How accessible are the medications in your house?

A new survey shows that as many as one in seven Massachusetts parents have given their kids prescription painkillers that weren’t prescribed to them. Considering how dangerous a practice this is, those numbers are pretty shocking. Remember waiting in line for coffee this morning? If this survey is accurate then at least one of the people in front of you may have risked their child’s life to alleviate discomfort.

“There’s no question that in some cases this type of behavior could be fatal,” says Lois Lee, MD, MPH, an emergency medicine physician at Children’s Hospital Boston. “Any time you give adult strength medication to a child you increase the chance of an unintentional overdose.”

Taking prescription medication without a doctor’s approval is dangerous for anyone, but the risks are far greater for children. The dosage of most painkillers are based on the size of the patient, so what’s considered a mild painkiller for a full grown adult can have a much more pronounced effect on a child.

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Health headlines: August 10

A run-down of some of the other health stories we’re reading:

  • The CDC released new flu guidelines for school administrators. Traditional guidelines such as “wash your hands” and “stay home when sick” are combined with active screening and suggestions such as “students who have an ill household member should stay home for five days from the day the first household member got sick,” and “try innovative ways of separating students [such as] moving desks farther apart or canceling classes that bring together children from different classrooms.” How realistic are these guidelines for teachers and parents?
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