Prescription errors and how the patient can help avoid them

Medication errors are surprisingly common and cause thousands of injuries and deaths each year. Since 1992, the FDA has tracked incidences of medication errors, and there have been over 30,000. These errors can be caused by poor communication, an error by the physician or pharmacist, or failure to disclose medications you are currently taking.

As the patient, you expect your doctor to prescribe the right medication at the right dosage to treat your condition. Unfortunately, mistakes are made and the results can often be deadly. There are ways you can decrease your risks of dealing with a medication error.

Make a list of current medications

If your doctor does not know which medications you are currently taking, they cannot make sure there is no interaction between those and the prescribed drug. Because it is often easy to forget the names of medications and their doses, come prepared to your appointment with a list of them. Include any herbals, supplements or over-the-counter medications in your report.

Ask to speak in simple terms about the medication

If you do not understand why your doctor is prescribing a medication, ask him or her to slow down and explain it to you in terms you can understand. Ask questions about what the medication does, how long you are supposed to take it and if there are foods or activities you should avoid while taking the medication.

Double check at the pharmacy

Something as simple as handwriting can be the cause of many medication errors. If a pharmacist misreads what the doctor wrote, you could end up with the wrong medication or dosage. Before leaving the pharmacy, check what your doctor told you against what the pharmacist gave you.

Know your rights as a patient

You may be vigilant and safe about the medications you take, but mistakes can still happen. If this is the case and you are concerned about compensation for injuries you suffered or the likelihood that the error will happen again, you may want to speak to an attorney about representation.