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Five Things Patients Can Do to Help Prevent a Medication Error

By: Anapol Weiss

Since 2000, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received more than 95,000 reports of medication errors, which include any preventable event that may lead to inappropriate medication use or harm to a patient.

There are a variety of reasons medication errors occur, including:

  • Miscommunication of drug orders
  • Poor handwriting on prescriptions
  • Confusion of similarly named drugs
  • Poor packaging design
  • Confusion of dosing units

How can patients avoid falling victim to a dangerous medication error? The FDA offers a few simple tips to prevent them before they happen.

1. Know the Medication By Name

Ask for the name of the medication the doctor is going to prescribe. Patients who know the drug’s name are more likely to notice if the pharmacy provides something different.

2. Pay Attention to the Way the Drug Looks

When receiving a refill, look at the medication before leaving the pharmacy to make sure it looks the same as before with regard to packaging, color, size, shape and texture. Ask the pharmacist if anything about the medication seems different.

3. Read the Label and Ask Questions About Usage

It’s important to know how and when to take a specific medication as well as how much to use and how long to use it. Ask about missed doses, taking the medication with or without meals, and possible side effects and interactions. In addition, use the measuring device that comes with the medication.

4. Know What a Medication Does

Understanding the purpose of a medication helps patients use it correctly, know what to expect, and know when to report problems.

5. Inform Health Care Providers About All Medications and Dietary Supplements

Keeping doctors and pharmacists informed about all drugs – including vitamins and herbal supplements – helps prevent dangerous interactions or taking medications with the same active ingredient. Make a list of all current medications and tell a loved one. In the event of an emergency, that person would be able to inform doctors.

Sadly, even careful patients can suffer the consequences of a medication error. Prescribers and pharmacists have the responsibility of ensuring individuals receive the right medication – and that includes the correct type, dosage, number of doses, and other factors. Those who fail to meet that standard of care must be held accountable for letting someone get hurt.

Contact our firm for assistance if you or a loved one was harmed by a medication error. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing victims of medical errors, and they are prepared to answer any legal questions you may have.