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Protecting yourself from medication errors

Even though over 1.5 million Americans are injured each year because of prescription medication errors, knowledgeable patients can protect themselves. The Institute of Medicine recommends that you do the following:

(1) Maintain a list of all prescription and non-prescription drugs, vitamins, and other dietary supplements used, and take this list whenever you visit your doctor or other health-care provider;
(2) Ask your doctor for written instructions on taking prescription medicine-compare those instructions with the instructions on your medicine bottle;
(3) Ask your doctor and the pharmacist about side effects of all prescription drugs;
(4) Use the same pharmacy whenever possible because most pharmacies maintain a computer system that will flag drugs that can interact dangerously;
(5) Read the information leaflet that comes with prescription drugs;
(6) If your pills look different when you obtain a refill, do not assume that the manufacturer changed the size, shape, or color-ask questions to make certain you did not receive the wrong medicine.

If you are a patient in a hospital, the Institute of Medicine recommends the following:

(1) Before surgery, ask if there are any medicines that you should avoid or stop taking beforehand;
(2) Ask your doctors and nurses about the drugs you are being given, why they are being given, and what effects you can expect from the drugs;
(3) Before being discharged, ask for a list of all medications you should take at home and instructions for taking that medication;
(4) Ask a relative or other person to make sure that the three steps mentioned above are taken if your condition prevents you from doing them yourself.

As you can see from this list, you can prevent unnecessary injuries in many cases simply by asking questions and making sure you receive satisfactory answers to all of your questions.

Source: Institute of Health