Tips for Avoiding Medication Errors

Prescription and over-the-counter medications save thousands of lives each year. Yet sometimes medications inflict harm on patients more than they heal. This is often the case when someone makes a medication error – such as a nurse mixing up two patients’ prescriptions or a doctor prescribing a drug that will have an adverse reaction with other medications a patient is taking. Studies show that more than seven million patients suffer due to preventable medication errors each year. Follow these tips to avoid medication errors in your life.

Keep Track of What You Take

People of all ages depend on medications to treat conditions and symptoms and to live normal, pain-free lives. If you’re one such person, keep a physical list of all the medications (prescription and non-prescription), supplements, and vitamins you’re taking. Update the list as necessary with new medications. Write down the dosage you take. Include all creams, inhalers, drops, etc. Take this list with you to medical appointments.

Your doctor can use this information to prescribe treatments that won’t interfere with what you’re already taking. Keeping track of medications and showing your list to a doctor can prevent issues such as outdated medical records or a physician failing to review your medical history before prescribing you something. Never assume that your doctor knows what you’re currently taking.

Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask questions when a doctor prescribes you a new medication. Ask what the drug is for and whether it may have any adverse interactions with other medications you’re taking. Find out about other interactions you should be aware of when on the drug, such as with certain foods or supplements. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has information that can help patients avoid common dangerous drug interactions.

Also ask about the possible side effects of taking a drug, as well as the percentage of patients who report experiencing them. You might discover that a medication has reports of serious or life-threatening side effects, an FDA Black Box warning (the most serious health risk warning for drugs), or ongoing lawsuits against the manufacturer for a bad drug. Ask if you can take a different drug if you don’t feel comfortable with the recommended medication. The more you know about the drugs you’re taking, the lower the risk of critical errors.

Double Check Everything

Although doctors, nurses, and pharmacies have policies in place to help prevent medication errors, these policies aren’t failsafe. Medication errors among medical practitioners can and do occur every year. Prescription errors, incorrect dosages, patient mix-ups, and dispensary problems can result in serious and fatal medication mistakes for patients. Before you take any medications, double-check that you are receiving the correct drug in the correct dosage.

Don’t assume that because your medications are coming from a trusted source that they are correct. Physicians are not immune to error. Keep track of your medication schedule yourself so that you can check meds before you take them. If you are unable to keep up with your medications on your own, ask a trusted friend or family member to do so for you. Having more than one pair of eyes on your medications can help you catch mistakes before they affect you. Consider using an app to help you manage your medications.

Explore Possible Alternatives

The best way to reduce your risk of a medication error is to limit the number of medications you take. Ask your doctor if there is an alternative to a certain medication, especially if you’re worried about adverse side effects or interactions. There may be another type of treatment that doesn’t involve medication. If no suitable alternatives are available, do your best to avoid errors by keeping up with your medications and taking them as prescribed or directed.

If you or a loved one has suffered from a medication error, contact an attorney for a medical malpractice case evaluation. You could be eligible for compensation.