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Craig G. Hurwitz, M.D.

Health tracker

The Medication Sheet: Your life-line to avoid medical error

Medication errors account for more than 700,000 emergency room visits yearly and are often preventable. Click on this link to visit the center for disease control (CDC) medication safety website. Keeping an accurate list of your medications and allergies can not be stressed enough. It should be kept with you at all times. Shrink it down, laminate it and keep it in your wallet. Numerous studies have demonstrated how the majority of patients have limited recall of their med list and very few can list all meds with their correct doses. The list you create here should be brought to all appointments as well. It will also save valuable time during your office visits rather than trying to peice together a list from memory. Furthermore, this list will include prior adverse drug reactions and allergies to avoid repeat offenders.

I can't tell you how many times patients have told me "I had a reaction to a blood pressure medication but I don't recall the name". This can often make selecting future therapies tricky since this person clearly had a reaction previously. I then try to sort out what the reaction was to see if that gives a clue to the class of medication that caused the problem. If only this patient had a list and took just a few minutes to document that adverse reaction. I know we all think, "well the doctor should have that listed and on file". Unfortunately, patients often move, doctors retire and for other reasons the info is just not available. If we want excellent health care we as paients (me included) have to take some basic responsibility.

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Your drug list should include all prescribed medications such as blood pressure medications, cholesterol medications, diabetic medications, hormone therapy, anti-depressants, eye drops, etc. It should also include all over the counter (OTC) medications taken routinely since these drugs can have side effects and also interact with other drugs.

Keep the list up to date. Try to know why you are taking a particular medications. Periodic review with you and your doctor is important so meds can be evaluated to determine if they are still necessary and if dosing is correct.

There are many ways to organize a med list and I'll give you my preferred method below.

Medication Strength / Size How Often Taken Date Started Taken For


81 mg

1 tab daily in AM




25 mg

1 tab twice daily


Blood Pressure


10 mg

1 tab at bedtime




15 mg

1 tab daily in AM




Below your current medications list medication allergies. This portion of the list is even more important than the current medications. If you can recall the type of reaction you had, list that as well next to the drug. For example penicillin caused a rash. A serious reaction such as breathing trouble, severe rash, severe nausea, vomiting or of course an anaphylactic reaction should be listed here. If there was mild stomach upset or another adverse reaction that was not severe but bad enough that you wouldn't want it again, you can list that med separately under the heading "Adverse Medication Reactions".


DRUG ALLERGIES Type of reaction


caused severe hives all over



ADVERSE REACTIONS Type of reaction


caused moderate constipation


A few other key points to remember. If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant or nursing be sure to make this information kinown to any doctor who is prescribing medications for you. Numerous drugs can affect the fetus or nursing infant. While there are no perfectly safe drugs, certain drugs are considered safer for pregnancy and nursing.

Although alcohol will not appear on your drug list it can have significant impact on medications taken. Be as honest as you can with your caregivers with respect to alcohol consumption to avoid adverse reactions.


Your Personal Medical Record: Helping Your Doctor Help You

  1. Your diagnosis/problem sheet

  2. Your medication/allergy sheet

  3. Your immunization sheet

  4. Family history, social history and occupational history

  5. Tracking your symptoms before an office visit and the health diary