Lab Tests are Often Needed for Safety Before Starting and While Continuing Certain Medications

Drugs are toxic as well as helpful. Although the proper dosage of medication improves health and saves lives, the improper use can cause tragic outcomes. When drugs are prescribed, it is recommended that the doctor measure your blood count, kidney function, liver function, or electrolytes before starting that particular medicine. That is because a certain drug can possibly harm a particular part of your body. For example, a drug might be known to occasionally cause inflammation to a person’s liver, so for that particular drug, a simple blood test checking liver function might be recommended before starting that drug.

A recent study be Raebel et al. found that 39% of the time, drugs are prescribed without the recommended initial lab testing.1

Hurley et al. report that “lapses in laboratory monitoring of patients taking selected chronic medications were common,”2 and, of all adverse drug reactions, “monitoring errors were the cause of 60.8% of preventable events.”2

With estimates of over 700,000 patients per year being treated in U.S. emergency rooms for adverse drug reactions, and over 100,000 people hospitalized per year for drug reactions,3 it may be time for you to get involved so that you can save yourself or a loved one from this harmful and sometimes deadly problem.

Checking to see if you need certain lab tests before or while you’re on a certain medicine is a little difficult, but you should still be able to manage it. Go to a website such as and type in your drug, but this time click on “For Professionals.” Then go down to the “Warnings” or “Precautions” section. If there are tests that should be done before or during your use of that medicine, they should be listed there.

You can also always ask the pharmacist if there are any tests they recommend taking before use or during use of your medication.

If you find something at that mentions tests to be done before or during the use of that medicine, call your doctor and mention that you found these lab tests that can be helpful and ask them to order them for you.

Studies, Footnotes and Resources:

  1. Raebal, Marsha A., Ella E. Lyons, and Susan E. Andrade et al. “Laboratory Monitoring of Drugs at Initiation of Therapy in Ambulatory Care.” Journal of General Internal Medicine 20 (2005): 1120-1126
  2. Hurley, Judith S., Melissa Roberts and Leif I. Solberg et al. “Laboratory Safety Monitoring of Chronic Medications in Ambulatory Care Settings.” Journal of General Internal Medicine 20 (2005): 331-333
  3. Budnitz, Daniel S., Daniel A. Pollack, Kelly N. Weidenbach, Aaron B. Mendelsohn, Thomas J. Schroeder, and Joseph L. Annest. “National Surveillance of Emergency Department Visits for Outpatient Adverse Drug Events.” Journal of American Medical Association 296(15) (2006): 1858-1866

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