According to the Institute of Medicine, “The frequency of medication errors and preventable medication-related injuries represents a very serious cause for concern.” The following tips can help you avoid an error when you receive and consequently fill a prescription.
1. Be able to read your doctor’s prescription. When you receive a prescription from your doctor, make sure that you can read it. If the prescription is not legible, ask your doctor to print the name of the medication and the directions for taking the medication.
2. Know your medication. When you leave your doctor’s office, you should know the name of your medication and the reason why your doctor has prescribed it. If you have questions, ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist. And, make sure you read any written material given to you along with your medications.
3. Use the same pharmacy for all your medications. If you have all of your prescription medications filled at one pharmacy, your pharmacist can more readily check for drug interactions. Let your pharmacist know about any medication allergies and any over-the-counter medications or supplements that you are using.
4. Check your filled prescription at the pharmacy. Carefully read the label on your prescription bottle. Let the pharmacist know if you find anything that you think is incorrect. If you are having a prescription refilled, make sure the medication looks exactly the same as it did the last time. If it does not, ask the pharmacist why. At home you can use the pill identifier to make sure you have the correct medication.
5. Keep all of your doctors informed. Keep a list of all your medications. Bring that list to all appointments and make sure that each doctor is aware of all your medications. This will lessen the chance that you will have drug interactions or get too many medications.
A personal note from Dr. Mike: Last week, I had a prescription filled at my local pharmacy and I received half the dose of medication that my doctor prescribed. I had been taking a lower dose of the medication and my pharmacist assumed it was just a refill. If I had not read the prescription label, I would not have gotten the proper dose and I might have had problems with my health condition.
To learn more about medical errors, read the following articles from Trish Torrey's About.com Patient Empowerment site: