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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 :

  1. What is it for ?
  2. What dosage is the medicine ?
  3. How many times of day will you take it and for how long ?
  4. What are the side effects? What should you do if side effects occur ?
  5. Is it safe to take with your current medications, vitamins, and over-the-counter medications ?
  6. What do you do if you miss a dose ?
  7. What food, drink, or activities should you avoid while taking this medicine ?

6. Research the drug. Two good websites are : and .

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.


  1. Gravatar for Eddy Seegers

    Great article. I nearly had an issue years ago because a doctor overlooked a medication that another doctor had prescribed. Fortunately, an attentive pharmasist caught the potential problem, liver failure in less than 2 weeks. since I now have multiple doctors and multiple appointments, I print out a list as suggested above and give that when asked what medications I take. I also list the Dr. that prescribed each medication. It is easy to make adjustments or changes to the list when necessary. I have also started carrying the list on a card in my wallet in case of emergency. Thanks for a very helpful article.

  2. Gravatar for Amanda Wick

    I am printing this out and sending it to my grandparents as we speak. A couple months ago, my grandmother was hospitalized for bronchitis and when I got there, I could not believe how lethargic and ill she was from simple bronchitis! Things got so bad they brought paleative/end-of-life care in. Finally, my dad asked one of the doctors to review her chart and read to him the drugs she was on. We found out they had put her on something completely inappropriate that mixed poorly with her other meds. As soon as they stopped it, she was more alert within hours and she was discharged within days. Had my dad not been so involved and known what she was SUPPOSED to be on, instead of just leaving it to a team of Doctors who had no idea what the others were doing or, apparently, prescribing, I don't think she would have gotten out the hospital alive. I intend to send this article to everyone I know. Keep up the great, informative posts!

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