Most people assume medication errors are rare, but the Mayo Clinic reports that every year, more than a million people in the US suffer adverse drug reactions due to errors. Some of these errors happen at home, but many of them happen in the doctor’s office, at the hospital, and even at the local pharmacy.
According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, errors involving improper dissemination of drug information are actually one of the most common medication errors that can occur. Other ways are through errors made at the pharmacy, patients taking the medication incorrectly, and noncompliance with the proper dosage instructions.
There are a number of ways that you can safeguard yourself against medication errors and the adverse drug reactions that may be caused by taking the wrong medication or taking meds incorrectly. These include:
1. Make a List
Keep a list of all your medications, the dosage, and even what they look like. Make sure this list is up-to-date at all times and includes not only prescriptions but over-the-counter products such as aspirin and supplements. Take this list with you to all doctor’s visits and to the pharmacy. Compare the medication listed on the bottle and how the pills looks each time you have the prescription filled. Discuss any inconsistencies with your pharmacist immediately.
2. Discuss Each New Prescription with Your Doctor
Before you ever leave the doctor’s office with a new prescription, be sure you understand why it’s being prescribed and how it may affect you. Ask about interactions with foods or other drugs and possible side effects. Also ask what to do if you accidentally miss a dose or take more than the recommended dose.
3. Use the Same Pharmacy for All Your Prescriptions
Even if your doctor makes an error, a pharmacist who is familiar with your medications and your health history may catch the error. You’ll also be able to build a relationship with the staff and feel more comfortable asking them questions.
4. Get Organized
Set a schedule for when you need to take your meds, and stick to it. Make taking them a regular part of your routine. If you need to, you can make a calendar to check off if they’ve been taken that day or use a pillbox that holds individual doses for each day.
For those who need extra help staying organized or remembering to take their medications, a medication dispensing service can eliminate errors at home. These automated systems help you to manage your medications at home, and they offer reminders that help enable you to take your medications at the times they are scheculed for.
5. Follow Safety Best Practices for Prescription Medications
Many medications include information sheets that answer most questions you might have about the drug. Keeping these in a binder allows you to easily find them for reference. You should also always store meds in their original containers, although portioning out a few doses at a time is helpful. Finally, you should never take medication prescribed to someone else. Even if it appears to be the same drug, there may be differences that are not apparent.
Medication errors are much more common than you probably realize. Most, however, can be prevented. The key is to communicate openly with your healthcare providers and pharmacy staff, and learn as much as possible about each medication. Never be afraid to ask for more information.