Aldactazide.

Mevacor.

Xarelto.

These are all names of prescription drugs which people could potentially have in their medicine cabinets.

It's not uncommon for individuals to go to their medicine cabinet, grab the prescription, and forget what the pill is for.

The average American now takes more than a dozen prescription drugs, according to one report.

While prescription bottles indicate the directions given by the physician (take pill twice a day), they don't indicate what use the medication has.

Senior citizens, or individuals battling chronic, serious illnesses, can especially relate to opening the medicine cabinet and seeing their prescriptions having names they can't even pronounce.

Prescriptions should be required to not only list the drug by its manufactured and/or generic name, but also have a notation why it's used: ex.: blood pressure, water pill, antibiotic.

Four years ago, groups like the National Association of Pharmacy Boards and United States Pharmacopeia called on states to make it mandatory that prescription labels not only state what the medication is and when it should be taken, but also what it's for.

No action was taken on the requests; at least not in Pennsylvania.

Explanation labels on what the prescriptions are used for could not only end confusion for many people, it could save lives.

Adding to the medicine shelf chaos is that sometimes medications sound the same.

According to Medicine. Net:

An eight-year-old died, it was suspected, after receiving methadone instead of methylphenidate, a drug used to treat attention deficit disorders.

A 19-year-old man showed signs of potentially fatal complications after he was given clozapine instead of olanzapine, two drugs used to treat schizophrenia.

And a 50-year-old woman was hospitalized after taking Flomax, used to treat the symptoms of an enlarged prostate, instead of Volmax, used to relieve bronchospasm..

It's amazing that cans of fruit are required to be carefully labeled for content, as is virtually any other type of processed food.

McDonald's Coffee contains the information that the contents might be hot.

Over-the-counter drugs clearly state the uses of the medications.

But prescription drugs, which are more potent and can be deadly if misused, often contain only big words that few of us can even remember.

By Ron Gower

rgower@tnonline.com