Medication Safety

by Carolyn Gonzalez

According to a survey done by the CDC, 48.7% of persons in the US have been on at least one prescription drug in the past 30 days (2). It doesn’t seem like a big deal to be on a medication, but perhaps it should be as many Latinos don’t have knowledge about their medications’ side effects and one observational study showed only 49% of Latinos take their medication as instructed (1). So what are some of the impacts of not taking medications as they are prescribed? Well, that all depends on the medication and the illness or chronic condition it is meant to treat.

Up to 40% of patients who use antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection fail to finish their prescription(1). The problem is that if a prescription isn’t completely used the bacterial infection may linger without a patient’s knowledge, even if they feel better. Later, they may get sick again and that illness may not be treatable with the same antibiotic. If antibiotics are shared or stopped and then started at a later date, a patient may develop antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria requiring special expensive treatment. Instructions are printed for the patient’s benefit and aren’t the only things that patients should be aware of when prescribed a new medication.

Many patients are unaware that certain foods and beverages can impact how their medications work and their overall safety. Once, when I was working in a primary care office, we had a patient who was on Coumadin who had abnormal bleeding and no one could figure out why. Later on it was discovered that he was eating tamarind candy every day. Eating any foods high in vitamin K such as tamarind or spinach can increase bleeding if you’re taking coumadin. Foods rich in potassium can interact with ACE inhibitors used to treat high blood pressure and cause an abnormal heart rhythm. So if you’re taking a medication like lisinopril make sure not to eat too many beans, potatoes, fish, avocados, or bananas. It can seem overwhelming to think about all of the possible side effects of your medications, but having a good relationship with your doctor can help you figure out how to manage your prescriptions.

If a medication is too difficult to take because it’s too expensive or has to be taken multiple times a day please tell your doctor. Your health is too important for them not to listen and try to develop a medication plan that can work with your schedule and your financial means. Also, make sure to ask questions if you don’t understand what the doctor is talking about. If you’re not fluent in English and the doctor is not fluent in Spanish request an interpreter. Most doctors offices and all hospitals are legally required to have an interpreting service so that they may best communicate with their patients. So please, be open with your doctor, ask questions, and use medications as they are prescribed.


1.Noncompliance in Current Antibiotic Practice : Infectious Diseases in Clinical Practice. (n.d.). Retrieved May 21, 2017, from

2.Therapeutic Drug Use. (n.d.). Retrieved May 21, 2017 from

Carolyn Gonzalez is a native of Rochester, NY of Puerto Rican descent. She is finishing her first year at the University of Rochester’s School of Medicine and Dentistry. She completed her B.S. in Biology and Society with a double minor in Policy Analysis and Management and Inequalities Studies from Cornell University in 2011. Her medical specialty interests include primary care and psychiatry. She is on the executive board of the school’s chapter of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) who are committed to contribute educational articles relevant to the Latino community.