WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- Is your medication making you sick? If a mistake is made when the medicine is prescribed or dispensed serious injury or even death can occur.
Are prescription errors common?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. A study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found that in hospitals, errors occur at every step of the process. But they are most frequent during prescribing or administering the medication. The study found that a hospital patient may expect on average one medication error a day.
Has the situation improved since the IOM study was conducted over ten years ago? Not according to a report issued by Consumers Union. Both of these reports covered a broad range of medical errors including problems created by the medicines we take. Consumers Union started a Safe Patient Project focusing on issues of health care safety and quality.
Safe Patient Project
Whether it's your doctor's office, a pharmacy, a clinic that provides outpatient care or in a hospital, mistakes can happen.
Are there things people can do to guard against these errors?
Being vigilant is the best way to prevent mistakes. Provide your doctor with a complete record of all prescription and over the counter medicines you take. When you have the prescription filled, make certain you are given information on the drug, its interaction with other medicines, and its dosage. If you go to a new doctor, take a list of all medicines and supplements you take as well as the strength and frequency of doses.
If you are having a prescription refilled, check the medicine carefully, make sure it is the correct dosage and that it looks the same as what you received previously. If the medication does not look like what you have been taking check with the pharmacist. It could appear different because pharmacies do change suppliers of generic medicine. But check it out!
One of the best ways to fight mistakes is to be aware they can happen. Asking questions, reading all of the information about the drug, and visually inspecting it are some of the ways to help prevent errors. Your doctor and pharmacist are valuable sources of information don't hesitate to ask them questions. Record keeping is also a vital tool in keeping track of medications.
Pharmacist Planning Services Inc
There is hope for reducing prescription errors by using computerized data as well as eliminating confusing prescription abbreviations.
JAMIA Reduction In Medical Errors
Additional information on medical errors and prevention
Safe Patient Project
FDA Medication Errors
Patient Safety Facts and Figures
Preventable Medical Errors, The Sixth Biggest Killer In America