Saturday, 18 June 2011

How safe is your medication for breastfeeding? New LactMed app!

NOTE: Previously the LactMed app was not available on the Android Market - you had to go to the LactMed website to download it. It is now available on the Market directly - just search "LactMed".

I was talking to a doctor recently about a woman who is breastfeeding and newly diagnosed with a chronic health condition. The doctor said, "I want to prescribe her Drug Y, but she couldn't take that when she's breastfeeding, right?" Since the answer to "can she take that when breastfeeding" is almost always "yes", I suspected it was fine, and I made it a teachable moment. "I don't know, but I know how you can find out!" I said. I opened the LactMed website, typed in the drug, and voila! It was of minimal concern for a breastfeeding dyad, and I had spread knowledge about this resource to one more person.

I have written about the issue of breastfeeding and medications before and mentioned LactMed as an easily accessible, free resource from a very trusted source (the NIH). Now the exciting news is that LactMed is being made available as a free app for iPhones and Android phones. This is a fantastic addition as many doctors use apps to aid in prescribing, and some of the most popular apps like ePocrates and Micromedex are not nearly as comprehensive and accurate about breastfeeding information as they should be (check out this chart to see how widely varied different sources can be for the same list of commonly prescribed drugs.) Having a more accurate app on the screen right next to the prescribing app - instead of a website that you need to go and access - will hopefully help increase use of LactMed as a resource.

When doctors think they can't prescribe a drug for a breastfeeding woman, one of two things happens: 1) The baby is weaned early (sometimes very early) and unnecessarily, or 2) The woman is not treated because the doctor doesn't even offer the drug, or because when she is told she has to choose between breastfeeding and treatment, she chooses breastfeeding and - again unnecessarily - postpones or forgoes treatment. Do you know a doctor, pharmacist, or NP/CNM? Let's prevent these scenarios by spreading the word about an easy and accurate resource for medication safety!