Medication errors are the most common medical errors. Medication errors affect at least 1.5 million people every year. There have been some recent public medication errors such as the Heparin mix -up with the Quaid babies. So how can you protect your self and your loved ones ?
Part I – Doctor’s office
1. Make sure all of your doctors know everything you are taking. This includes presciptions, over-the counter medications ,and vitamins and herbs. Your heart doctor needs to know what your stomach doctor is prescibing. Drugs can interact into a deadly combination. A sleeping pill mixed with a pain pill is an example of deadly prescription drug combinations. Many over-the-counter decongestants cancel out the effects of blood pressure medications.
2. Keep a complete list of all of your "pills." A complete list includes the name, dosage, how ofetn you take it, and when you take it. This should be reviewed by your primary physican at least once a year.
3. Make sure your doctors know about any allergies or adverse reactions you have to medicines. Add this to your complete list. List the drug name and your reaction to the medication.
4. When a doctor writes you a prescription, make sure you can read it. If you can’t read it, then the pharmacist may not be able to read it.
5. Ask about the medicine. Make sure the doctor explains it to you in terms you can understand. Write it down. Ask the following questions :
- What is it for ?
- What dosage is the medicine ?
- How many times of day will you take it and for how long ?
- What are the side effects? What should you do if side effects occur ?
- Is it safe to take with your current medications, vitamins, and over-the-counter medications ?
- What do you do if you miss a dose ?
- What food, drink, or activities should you avoid while taking this medicine ?
Become an active part of your healh care team. Ask questions, research, and be pro-active. In part II, I will talk about protecting yourself from medication errors in the pharmacy.