More than half of all Americans have used a prescription medicine in the past 30 days. In fact, the average person uses about four prescriptions daily, in addition to dietary supplements. The number of prescriptions filled each year is rising and is expected to reach 4.57 prescriptions within the next four years, according to Statista. With this much prescription use, Americans should educate themselves to be sure they know about their medications and how to use them safely, says James Ragotzkie, a pharmacist.
Consumers should focus first on learning the basics. This includes the brand names and generics of their medicines, what condition the medication treats, and what its dosage is, says Jim Ragotzkie. Once they know this information, consumers should be sure they know how to take the medication; for example, is it taken with meals, before meals, every day, or only when needed. One of the most significant issues health professionals face is finding a way to ensure patients take their medications as directed, says James Ragotzkie.
Consumers also should know if the medication interacts poorly with foods or any other drugs. They should discuss other medicines they are taking, including herbal supplements, with the prescribing doctor and pharmacist to understand potential reactions. For example, calcium supplements interfere with the absorption of thyroid hormone replacement prescriptions such as levothyroxine, Synthroid, and Unithroid, so patients should refrain from taking calcium within four hours of taking these medications, says Jim Ragotzkie.
Consumers also should ask their doctor or pharmacist about any potential side effects they might experience while taking the medication and what to do if they occur, says James Ragotzkie. They also should be diligent about reading the label every time they take a prescription, even if they take the medicine several times a day. Otherwise, they may accidentally take the wrong medication or give the wrong medication to their child, says Jim Ragotzkie.
Finally, patients should be sure they know how long to take the prescription. Many patients make the mistake of taking antibiotics only until they feel better only to have their symptoms return a few days after they stop taking medicine. Patients should always take the full series of antibiotics, says James Ragotzkie.
James Ragotzkie is a graduate of the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and is a board-certified pharmacist working in Albany.
Scientists Are Studying Antivirals, Antibodies, and Vaccines, James Ragotzkie Says
Researchers are working at a record pace to find ways to treat the virus, primarily through antivirals, and to boost the immune system to prevent people from contracting it in the first place. Thousands of clinical trials of various therapies are taking place around the world, some of which are promising, says pharmacist James Ragotzkie.
Antivirals reduce the ability of the virus to replicate itself. Most antiviral therapies that researchers are testing with COVID-19 patients already have been effective and approved for use in treating other diseases. For example, remdesivir was created for use against hepatitis B and has also been tested for use against Ebola. While some studies have been inconclusive, other studies have shown remdesivir to shorten the time to recovery in some COVID-19 patients. Studies of remdesivir are continuing, says James Ragotzkie.
Another antiviral, hydroxychloroquine, initially looked promising. However, more intensive studies showed no benefit and, occasional harm, to COVID-19 patients on whom doctors used hydroxychloroquine. The FDA has withdrawn its authorization for emergency use of hydroxychloroquine, which was initially created to fight malaria, James Ragotzkie says.
Antibodies are proteins made by plasma cells in the blood that signal the immune system to begin working. Convalescent plasma therapy uses antibodies from patients who have recovered from COVID to treat a current patient. One study in China showed that patients that doctors treated with convalescent plasma recovered more quickly, but scientists must do more extensive research to be sure, says James Ragotzkie.
Monoclonal antibody therapies are produced by isolating the most potent antibodies from a recovered patient. Scientists are studying these therapies as a way to treat patients with the virus. Researchers also are conducting two late-stage clinical trials of monoclonal antibody therapies as a way to prevent people from contracting it at all, says James Ragotzkie.
Two vaccine candidates in late-stage clinical trials use the messenger RNA delivery platform to encode a stabilized SARS-CoV-2 spike immunogen. SARS-COV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19, and the spike protein facilitates its entry into the cells, says James Ragotzkie. Two other vaccine candidates use adenoviruses, which cause the common cold. Another vaccine candidate uses the modified vesicular stomatitis virus to deliver the instructions for the SARS-CoV-2 protein into cells. Modified vesicular stomatitis is a virus affecting livestock. This delivery system has worked well for building immunity to Ebola, says James Ragotzkie.
James Ragotzkie is a board-certified pharmacist in Albany and graduated from the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. James Ragotzkie also is an accomplished church organist and member of the American Guild of Organists.