what can consumers do to protect themselves from medication mistakes

While people understand and appreciate that medication errors can happen, the majority nevertheless dismiss this danger, thinking that no such mistake could ever be made at their trusted neighborhood pharmacy or that they are too diligent to ever fall victim to such a medical mistake.

While this viewpoint is perhaps not altogether unsurprising, it’s nevertheless extremely important for all pharmacy patients to understand that they are still at risk and would be well-advised to take steps to protect themselves from all manner of prescription errors, including wrong dosages, wrong medications, dangerous interactions and allergic reactions.

After all, consider that a groundbreaking study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that over 100,000 people lose their lives because of adverse drug reactions in the U.S. every year, and that it remains unclear just how many of these fatalities can be attributed to medication mistakes.

What can I do to protect myself when picking up my prescription?

According to the National Patient Safety Foundation, the first step anyone should take when picking up a prescription is to verify that both the drug and the dosage are correct, comparing the label against the included instructions (especially important for pediatric prescriptions).

Next, the NPSF advises actually opening the bottle to ensure that the correct information is imprinted on the pills or, if such information is not available, consulting with the pharmacist. This step becomes less onerous if you have been taking the medication regularly.

What can I do to protect myself when taking a new medication?

The NPSF indicates that the best course of action a person can take when starting a new medication is to do more than just blindly start taking it, but rather take the time to familiarize themselves with it.

For instance, the aforementioned instructions included with the prescription should contain a wealth of information to which a person can compare the knowledge gleaned from their physician and/or lead to more questions for the pharmacist.

For instance, these instructions should provide information on everything from the brand name and generic name of the drug, what the drug will do, possible side effects, how long/how often the drug should be taken, and the method in which the drug should be stored.

While taking these steps can help keep people safe, the fact remains that even the greatest diligence won’t always protect the average patient from suffering serious — or even deadly — harm attributable to prescription errors. In these situations, however, it’s important to know that there are still ways to hold the responsible parties accountable and to seek peace of mind about the future.

Source: The National Patient Safety Foundation, “Pharmacy safety: Consumer fact sheet,” Accessed Sept. 29, 2014

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