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How you can help prevent prescription drug errors

Medication errors can occur at just about any point in a person’s health care – from a doctor entering the wrong information in the system to a nurse grabbing the incorrect bottle in a hospital to a pharmacist giving a prescription to the wrong customer. Those are just a few examples of errors that health care professionals can make – and for which they can potentially be held liable.

As patients, however, we can do our part to help ensure that we are taking the correct medications in the appropriate dosages. This starts by being informed and not being afraid to ask questions. If you’re getting a prescription filled, you’ll likely receive a multi-page document about the medication. Don’t just throw it away. Read it. Keep it.

Here are a few other things you can do to help prevent medication errors:

Give your doctor full and complete information about all medications you’re taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs and supplements. This can help avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions if your doctor prescribes something new. When you go in for an appointment, bring a complete list or pack up your medications in a plastic bag and bring them in. Don’t rely on your doctor to have all of this information listed accurately in your records.

Be careful about how you take your medications. For example, don’t chew a pill unless it’s meant to be chewed. Don’t split a pill into more than one piece to swallow it unless your doctor or pharmacist says it’s okay. If you’re taking a liquid medication, be sure to use a measuring spoon or the cap, if it’s marked. Don’t grab the nearest teaspoon and guess from there.

Don’t remove your medications from their original bottles or containers except to take them unless you’re putting them in a weekly pill dispenser, and even then, be extremely careful. If you have trouble sorting your meds for the week (or you just hate the process), some pharmacies provide pre-sorted prescription packs.

No matter how careful we are, we still have to rely on health care professionals to prescribe and dispense medications accurately and carefully. If you or a loved one has been harmed by a medication error made by a doctor, nurse, pharmacist or another professional, it’s wise to look into your legal options.

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