According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they’ve received nearly 30,000 reports of medication errors since 1992, an amount which represents voluntary reports only. While it’s concerning to think of just how many prescribing errors may occur, there are several steps you can take to prevent being a victim.
In honor of Prescription Errors Education and Awareness Week, we’re breaking down how to stay prescription safe.
The most common type of medication error, which occurs in about 41 percent of cases, is the prescription of inaccurate dosage. Other errors involve giving the wrong drug or using the wrong method of administration. Erroneous prescribing most often involves miscommunication; either between healthcare providers or between providers and their patients, Similar-sounding pharmaceutical names or abbreviations can also be the cause. While patients over 60 years old are most vulnerable, children are also at risk due to the need for accurate dosage calculations based on specific body weight.
If a doctor writes a prescription for you or a loved one, ask for the exact name and jot it down. The FDA also recommends asking the doctor to write the reason for the prescription on the paper itself to act as an extra check in the pharmacy. The bottom line is that you should know exactly what you’re taking and why.
If you’ve had an allergic or adverse reaction to a medication, let your doctor know. Some medicines come from similar families and having this information will help avoid a similar reaction.
Make sure you understand exactly how to take a drug and when you should take it. Read the information that comes with medications to make sure it matches what your doctor told you. If not, ask before you take. Never be hesitant to ask for any kind of clarification about your medication. Once you understand fully, set reminders to remember to take your medicine, or ask family or friends for help, if needed.
Keep a current list of anything you take, including supplements and over-the-counter medicines up-to-date and on hand. Don’t forget about items like laxatives, birth control pills or vitamins. And if there’s any doubt, bring your actual medicines—in the bottles—along to your appointments. It’s important all your doctors have this information to help avoid dangerous interactions. Each time you receive a new prescription, practice “medication reconciliation,” or the process of comparing current orders to all the medicines you have been taking, with your healthcare providers.
One of the most effective ways to avoid errors is to maintain a long-term relationship with the same pharmacy. This way, you’ll have a historical record that can be referenced by your pharmacist each time a new medication is ordered.