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FDA 101: Medication Errors

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Examples of Medication Errors continued...

OTC cough and cold products can be harmful if more than the recommended amount is used, if they are given too often, or if more than one product containing the same active ingredient is used. In January 2008, FDA issued a public health advisory recommending that OTC cough and cold products not be used in infants and children under 2.

Serious injuries and deaths have resulted from such errors as misunderstanding directions and failing to use the measuring devices that come with the medicine. For more information, see

Overdoses of Acetaminophen:
Taking too much of the pain reliever acetaminophen can lead to serious liver damage. The drug is sold under brand names such as Tylenol and Datril, and is also available in many cough and cold products, prescription pain relievers, and sleep aids.

To avoid accidental overdosing, consumers should not take more than the recommended dose on the label. Also, acetaminophen should not be taken for more days than recommended, and should not be taken with other drug products that also contain acetaminophen without direction from a health care provider.

Parents should be cautious when giving acetaminophen to children. For example, the infant drop formula is three times more concentrated than the children's liquid. So parents need to be sure to give the appropriate dose.

Misuse of Fentanyl Patches:
FDA has issued warnings about the fentanyl transdermal system, an adhesive patch that delivers an opioid called fentanyl through the skin. An opioid is a potent pain medicine. It is also sometimes called a narcotic drug. Other examples of opioids include hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone.

The directions on the product label and package insert of the fentanyl transdermal system should be followed exactly in order to avoid overdose. Fentanyl patches should not be used for short-term acute pain, pain that is not constant, or for pain after an operation. The patch is only for moderate-to-severe chronic pain that is expected to last for any number of weeks or longer and that cannot be managed by acetaminophen-opioid combinations, nonsteroidal analgesics, or as-needed dosing with short-acting opioids.