Campaign launched to promote safe drug use

November 7, 2005

McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals has launched an on-line educational campaign to inform patients of the importance of the proper use and storage of medications and of maintaining a healthy medicine cabinet. The campaign comes on the heels of a recent survey conducted for McNeil by Harris Interactive. The survey found that nearly half (46%) of American adults have taken an expired over-the-counter (OTC) medication.

McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals has launched an on-line educational campaign to inform patients of the importance of the proper use and storage of medications and of maintaining a healthy medicine cabinet. The campaign comes on the heels of a recent survey conducted for McNeil by Harris Interactive. The survey found that nearly half (46%) of American adults have taken an expired over-the-counter (OTC) medication.

The survey, conducted from May 31 to June 2, 2005, via an on-line survey of 2,311 U.S. adults aged 18 and over, also revealed the following:

Jan Engle, Pharm.D., associate dean for academic affairs and clinical professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy, is the spokeswoman for the "My Medicine Cabinet" program. "So many people don't pay attention to the expiration dates when they buy medicine or when they use medicines from their medicine cabinet," Engle told Drug Topics. "We are trying to educate people to check expiration dates. If you don't use all of the medicine, it goes out of date."

Engle advised pharmacists to remind consumers to keep medicines in their original containers so that patients have access to the expiration date and dosing information. In addition, patients should not store medicines in the bathroom or other damp area because moisture and heat can change the potency of some medicines. "Cooler, drier places are better. One suggestion is to keep medicines in the linen closet," suggested Engle.

While Engle recommended that patients finish taking antibiotics that are prescribed for them, she said patients should discard any unfinished antibiotics, especially after a year. Certain medications, such as insulin, reconstituted antibiotics, and some acetaminophen suppositories should be refrigerated, as stated on their label, advised Engle.

The campaign, which includes a sweepstakes for a home makeover by designer Genevieve Gorder, is being touted in radio commercials that are airing in the top 15 to 20 markets. The campaign features Engle and Gorder. Gorder explains to consumers why it's even more important to update their medicine cabinet than it is to remodel their kitchen.

Display cases designed to house sweepstakes brochures have been provided to pharmacies nationwide.

The campaign also promotes the checking of medication expiration dates for drugs that are stored in first aid kits.

Wendy Klein-Schwartz, Pharm.D., coordinator of research and education at the Maryland Poison Center and associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, said that, in general, the concern with expired medications is diminished efficacy, not toxicity. However, expired tetracycline has been associated with nephrotoxicity.

In a separate but related development, the National Council on Patient Information & Education (NCPIE) has also launched a new campaign to promote safe medicine use. The effort, dubbed "3R's for Safe Medicine Use," focuses on risk, respect, and responsibility and encourages consumers to talk to their healthcare providers about the benefits and risks of the medicine they are taking.

NCPIE advises consumers to recognize that all medicines have risks as well as benefits, and it also urges consumers to respect the power of their medication and to take responsibility for learning about how to take each drug safely. NCPIE has posted educational materials on its Web site at http://www.talkaboutrx.org/.

For more information on the medicine cabinet campaign, visit http://www.mymedcab.com/.

More information on drug safety can be found at http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/2000/200_med.html.