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If you are taking a prescribed or rec-
ommended medication and you travel
outside of your province, you should
be reminded of some important infor-
mation. At one of our CSA shows, I was
called to aid a woman who had sud-
denly collapsed and was lying uncon-
scious on the floor. I immediately con-
firmed that she was breathing and had
a pulse and that CPR was unnecessary
but, because she was not immediately
awakening, I knew that it was not just
a faint. Having served in emergency
departments for many years, my next
important need was to know which
In “Bird Talk” in the last issue of
, a member wrote about his
confusion in trying to buy his 81 mg
ASA tablets in a Florida pharmacy.
Snowbirds should be aware that brand-
name drugs in Canada may not share
the same name in other countries, even
in the United States. Aspirin in Canada
is a trademark owned by the Bayer
Company and all other manufacturers
must use the generic name – which is
acetylsalicylic acid, more commonly
shortened to ASA. In the U.S., Bayer no
longer holds the trademark and many
companies manufacture the drug as
“aspirin.” These products often use
the term NSAID, which the member
thought was an ingredient, but which
simply indicates the fact that aspirin
conditions she was known to have. A
family member would be the natural
first source, but there appeared to be
no one who knew her. My next option
was to see if she had any information
on her person and, upon seeing her
purse, I opened it to find a scrolled
paper inside an empty pill vial which
not only contained a list of her vital
medical conditions, but also her medi-
cations. Being a Type 2 diabetic, who
also had hypertension and coronary
artery disease, she was likely to have
suffered her event as a result of one of
these conditions. This information was
is one of the drugs labelled as being
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug
(NSAID). Other drugs in this group in-
clude ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen
(Aleve). When a drug is labelled as As-
pirin, aspirin, ASA or acetylsalicylic acid,
it is all the same and contains only that
one medication. It is not a blood thin-
ner, as is often stated, but rather keeps
platelets from sticking and clumping,
thereby resulting in some interference
with clotting. It is often recommended,
usually as an enteric coated 81 mg
tablet, for persons with known cardio-
vascular disease or those considered to
be at higher risk. Furthermore, it is wise
for all seniors to carry at all times non-
enteric coated adult ASA (325 mg) tab-
lets because there is strong evidence
passed on to the paramedics who ar-
rived shortly thereafter.
For emergency room physicians, hav-
ing that kind of information immedi-
ately available would have been of
great assistance in coming to an early
diagnosis and prompt treatment. Do
you carry such vital information when
you travel? The CSA provides its mem-
bers with a free “Health Record”where-
in you can list your medical conditions,
medications, any allergies, your phys-
icians and other important health in-
formation in case of sudden need.
that a chewed adult ASA taken during
the initial symptoms of a heart attack
can reduce heart damage.
With the wonders of the Internet, if you
are able to provide a foreign doctor or
pharmacist with the Canadian trade
name of your medication, he or she
should easily be able to determine the
generic name, but it’s even better if you
list the generic name as well. For ex-
ample, I take Lipitor, but my list also in-
cludes the generic name, atorvastatin.
by Robert MacMillan MD
Drug Tips
Know the name of your