Precautions You Can Take to Avoid Prescription Errors

Talk with your doctor to make sure you know what medication he intended to prescribe, the appropriate dosage, the purpose for the medication, the potential side effects, medications, beverages or foods you should avoid and his instructions for taking the medication. You should also ask your doctor to write the purpose for the medication on the order.

Write down the drug name and dosage before going to the pharmacy. This will allow you to accurately compare the drug name and dosage on the bottle with what the doctor wrote on the order one you receive the medication and after the pharmacist has taken the original prescription from you.

Select a reputable pharmacy with more than one pharmacist working at a time. Those pharmacies that have only a single pharmacist relying on multiple technicians are more likely to make medication mistakes since the technicians have less education and training than a licensed pharmacist.

Check the label before leaving the pharmacy to make sure the medication name and dosage matches what you have written down.

Open the bottle while at the pharmacy and show the pills to the pharmacist. If the medicine looks different than what you have taken in the past, let the pharmacist know.

Talk with the pharmacist and take time to ask for counseling and detailed instructions about the proper use of the drug.

Avoid the beginning of the month for getting prescriptions filled. Research shows that fatalities due to medication errors are as much as 25% higher than at other times. This is believed to correspond to the time when Social Security checks arrive in the mail. Many people can't afford to pay for their medicine until they receive their Social Security check so at the beginning of the month they turn up in unusually large numbers and inundate the pharmacists. When pharmacists are busy, they are more likely to make medication mistakes.

Avoid the drive-up window at your pharmacy. One survey of pharmacists revealed that pharmacists believe the extra distractions associated with window service contribute to dispensing errors among other problems.