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Medication errors: Prevention strategies for patients

There are several strategies patients can use to ensure they are prescribed medication correctly so harm can be prevented.

Although prescription medications have the power to provide patients in Pennsylvania with much-needed medical help, when used or prescribed incorrectly, they can cause significant harm and in extreme cases, death. Medication errors are extremely common, and according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, they injure approximately 1.3 million people every year in the country. To prevent harm caused by a medication error, there are certain strategies patients should use before taking a new prescription drug.

Be knowledgeable about errors

Patients should be aware of the types of medication errors that can occur. Some of the most common ones include a medical professional administering an improper dose, the wrong drug being prescribed to a patient and the drug being administered incorrectly. Patients should also be aware that people who take multiple medications are most at risk for an error occurring.

Explicitly understand directions

Patients should fully understand how to take the medication after it is prescribed. For example, if a patient is required to take the medication three times per day, he or she should understand how far apart to take the medication, if it should be taken before or after mealtimes and how it should be stored, whether it needs to be kept at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Patients should also understand what kind of side effects they can expect after taking a new medication.

Maintain a list of medications

When reporting to their health care provider, patients should provide a comprehensive list of all medications taken, including dietary supplements, medicinal herbs, OTC medications and any other substances needed for medical reasons. In addition to maintaining this list, patients should ensure their healthcare provider is aware of any medication allergies they have or adverse reactions to a drug they have experienced in the past.

Research the drug and how it is used

Rather than accepting a new prescription drug and going on their way, patients should find out the name of the drug they are prescribed and what it is used for. Patients should also ask their doctor to include the purpose of the medication on the order so the chances of confusion over the drug's name are eliminated.

Although these strategies can help patients prevent medication errors, many people in Pennsylvania are still harmed by negligence during the prescribing process on a regular basis. Those harmed by a medication error should contact an attorney in their area for assistance addressing their legal rights and options.

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