PATIENT COUNSELING The survey of 1,256 u.s. adults fOlmd that about 90% read prescription and OTC dnlg labels and all but around 12% of those who read them lmderstand them. When patients need help in understanding OTC labels, 71 % turn to pharmacists, 15% to family, and 10% to physicians. When they need help in understanding prescription MIg labels, 43% ask physicians, 38% ask pharmacists, and 18% ask family members. Other [mdings: • People who have the most difficulty understanding OTC labels include those over age 65 (17%), those without a high school diploma (27%), and those in households with income below $35 ,000 per year (15%). • People who are the least likely to ask for help when they cannot understand OTC label information are Westemers (56% seek help), men (65% seek help), and people over age 65 (50% seek help). • About 77% of adults say they always or sometimes check dnlg expiration dates on medicine labels. Of those who check, 91 % discard expired medicines. • More than 90% of those who buy OTC products say they know what to look for as evidence of tampering, and nine in 10 check their medicine for signs of this. • About 20% say they have used another person's prescription drugs in the last ftve years.
Patients Turn to Pharmacists for Help with OTC Labels Patients who have trouble understanding the information on over-the-counter (OTC) drug labels usually ask their pharmacist for help, according to a recent poll by Louis Harris & Associates. Physicians, however, are the number one source of help in lmderstanding prescription labels, followed closely by pharmacists.
Use Prescription Medicines Often, 1991 45 40 35
15 10 5 0
Use of OTC Medicines Often, 1991 40 35 30 .... 25 c: CI.I
20 15 10 5 0~--~18--2-9~~3-0--3-9~~4-0--4-9~~5-0--6-4~~6-5+~----
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The survey was conducted in late 1991 for Prevention magazine and the Council on Family Health.
Avoiding Neural Tube Defects A recent recommendation from the u.s. Public Health Service (PHS) says that, to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, all women of reproductive age should take folicacid supplements or eat more foods containing folic acid. Neural tube defectswhich include spina bifida and anencephaly-form within the ftrst month after conception and occur in one or two births per 1,000. Spina bifida usually results in mild to severe paraplegia; anencephaly causes stillbirth or death soon after birth. Evidence has been mOlmting for years that folic acid, a B vitamin, can reduce the number of infants born with these defects if it is taken before pregnancy. PHS recommends that women between puberty and menopause consume 0.4 mg of folic acid daily. Total daily intake should not exceed 1 mg because high amolmts can mask a BI2 deftciency. Natural sources of folic acid include dark green leafy vegetables, bread, yeast, beans, fortified cereals, and citnls fnlits. Eating ftve helpings of fruits and vegetables a day should provide the recommended amount. Folic-acid supplements and multiple AMERICANPHARMACY
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vitamins containing 0.4 mg folic acid are also widely available. Shortly before the folic acid announcement, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine reported that women exposed to excessive heat through hot tubs, saunas, or fevers of at least 100°F during the flrst two months of pregnancy face a signillcantly greater risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect (lAMA. 1992;268: 882-5). By interviewing 22,754 women and recording the incidence of thermal exposure, the scientists found that the risk of developing a neural tube defect was directly tied to the number of heat exposures. They fOlmd, however, that electric-blanket use was "not materially associated with increased risk. " According to principal investigator Aubrey Milunsky, MD, women who are planning a pregnancy or are in the flrst two months of pregnancy should stay away from hot tubs and saunas. "It is a safe and harmless recommendation that could potentially do good," he said.
Free Hepatitis Screenings Concerned that millions of Americans are infected with hepatitis Band C withAMERICAN PHARMACY
out knowing it, the American Liver FOlmdation (ALF) is conducting a nationwide screening campaign. Free blood tests were offered at hospitals in 40 cities in September and will be offered in another 60 cities in 1993. Each year, some 300,000 Americans become acutely infected with hepatitis Band another 170,000 with hepatitis C. More than 100,000 of these cases develop into chronic hepatitis, which can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. For information on screening locations and physician referrals, as well as free brochures on hepatitis, call toll free (800) 223-0179 between 8:30 an1 and 5:00 pm, eastern standard time.
Health Dates NOVEMBER
National Alzheimer's Awareness Month. Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Association, 70 East Lake St. , Suite 600, Chicago, IL 60601. (800) 621-0379 or (312) 8533060. National Diabetes Month. American Diabetes Association, Public Relations, 1660 Duke St. , Alexandria, VA 22314. (800) 2323472 or (703) 549-1500. National Epilepsy Month. Epilepsy Foundation of America, Public Health Education, 4351 Garden City Dr., Suite 406, Landover, MD 20785. (800) EFA-1000 or
(301) 459-3700. National Hospice Month. National Hospice Association, 1901 North Moore St., Suite 901, Arlington, VA 22209. (703) 2435900. 2-6, Patient Education Week. International Patient Education Council, P.O. Box 1438, Rockville, MD 20849. (301) 963-1221. 19, Great American Smokeout. American Cancer Society, National Headquarters, 1599 Clifton Rd. , NE, Atlanta, GA 30329. (800) ACS-2345 or (404) 320-3333. 29-December 5, National Home Care Week. National Association for Home Care, 519 CSt. , NE, Washington, DC 20002. (202) 547-7424.
Health Resources Sunproofing Your Baby, a new brochure from the Skin Cancer Foundation, discusses how using Slmscreens early in life can substantially reduce the risk of skin cancer and gives tips for dealing with slmburn in children. For a free copy, send a stamped, self-addressed business envelope to The Skin Cancer FOlmdation, Box 561 , Dept. BA, New York, NY 10156. 10 Tips to Healthy Eatingfor Kids, written on a fourth-grade reading level, shows youngsters how to apply the basic principles of good nutrition-balance, variety, and moderation. For a free copy of the brochure,
offered by the International Food Information Council and the American Dietetic Association, send a stamped, self-addressed business envelope to Kids Tips, P.O. Box 1144, Rockville, MD 20850. The Short Stature Foundation has established a national toll-free hot line for information about medical specialists, support groups, and other services for short statured people. The number is (800) 24-DWARF. Stand Up to Osteoporosis is a new 22-page brochure from the National Osteoporosis Foundation that answers basic questions about osteoporosis and provides information on preventing the condition. For free copies of the brochure, call (800) 223-9994. AIDS & Pharmacy Update is a new quarterly newsletter with news about the activities of The Foundation of Pharmacists and Corporate America for AIDS Education (FPCA)-a national coalition of pharmaCists, pharmacy educators, pharmaceutical companies, and professional pharmacy associations. For more information, contact FPCA at 700 13th St. , NW, Suite 950, Washington, DC 20005. (202) 434-4515.
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