As a Florida Medication Error attorney, I know how important it is for patients to be aware of their medications and dosages. Understanding how much medication to take and how often it needs to be taken can be confusing, even when you can ask your doctor or pharmacist about your prescription. However, over the counter medications can be just as confusing and medication errors with over the counter medications can prove fatal.
At the beginning of the month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released new guidelines for over the counter medications to help alleviate some of the dosing confusion. An FAQ on the FDA website explains the various reasons behind these new guidelines. One reason for the guidelines involves the threat of accidental overdose from confusing dosage instructions
For example many medicines come with a dosing device to take the medicine like a cup, spoon or syringe. Sometimes dosing units on the medicine container do not match the dosing units on the device used to give the medicine. In one case, the medicine container read “take 2 teaspoonfuls (tsp) every 4-6 hours” but the dosage cup included with the product was marked in tablespoonfuls (tbs). If the consumer poured 2 units into the cup the consumer would have accidentally taken 2 tablespoonfuls instead of 2 teaspoonfuls. Because 2 tablespoonfuls is the equivalent of 6 teaspoonfuls, the consumer would have ingested three times more than the appropriate dose.
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The FDA’s new guidelines are also designed to keep caregivers from resorting to estimating doses using household utensils, which can vary greatly in size. Requiring over the counter liquid medications to come with dosage delivery devices will reduce the risk of accidentally administering the wrong dosage amount.
The FDA and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association also developed ten tips for administering over the counter liquid medications to children. These include asking a doctor, nurse or pharmacist how drugs interact with each other and triple checking a medication before use. These tips are designed to help consumers become advocates for their own safety to help prevent drug errors