Dangerous Medication Mistakes Are Easy to Avoid

Posted by Pharmacist on May 09, 2013

The Institute of Medicine reports there are more than 1.5 potentially dangerous medication drug mistakes made every year. The good news is that these errors are relatively easy to avoid as long as you take the proper precautions.

The first rule is to make sure you’re taking the correct drug. According to The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) one out of 20 filled prescriptions has some sort of an error. Computer menus, similar drug names or even a doctor’s stereotypical bad handwriting can lead to a mistake. You can avoid this by writing down the name of the drug and the dosage prescribed by your health care professional. Ask your doctor how to spell and pronounce the drug names if you aren’t certain. Then when you pick up your prescription you can double-check it against your notes. Be sure to ask your pharmacist questions, especially if you’re taking a generic drug so you can ensure it’s the right prescription.

If you’re like most people you probably don’t read the information that comes with your prescription. It’s usually full of medical terms and the language can be confusing. Once again, here’s where your pharmacist comes in. Talk to him about your dosage, potential interactions with food/alcohol and other requirements. Check on potential side effects and make sure your pharmacist is aware of all your prescription medications to avoid any unnecessary complications.

After you talk with your pharmacist it’s important to follow the rules. Some common instructions:

  • Take with food
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Do not crush or chew
  • Take at the same time every day

These are not loose suggestions – they are vital to protecting your health. Following the instructions allows you to get the benefits of the medication and avoid uncomfortable and even dangerous side effects.

Finally, it’s important to store prescriptions in a dry place where they won’t be exposed to moisture or heat – bathroom medicine cabinets may be the worst place to keep your medications. Keep track of the expiration dates and get rid of anything that’s expired. At best expired drugs have lost their effectiveness, but it is possible they could be toxic. Ask your pharmacist or call your local police station’s non-emergency line to see if there’s a prescription drug drop location in your area. If not, seal the drugs in a bag mixed with cat litter or coffee grounds before you dispose of them.

Talk to your pharmacist, doctor or other health care professional if you have any questions or concerns regarding your medication. Staying organized and on top of your prescriptions will reduce the chances of error and help you stay on the path to good health.

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