Patient advocacy urged to prevent medication errors

Pennsylvania area residents who need prescription medications either to address a short-term situation or for an ongoing condition deserve the right to trust that they will always receive the right medication and dosage. In most cases, this does happen but the rate of medication errors is something that cannot be overlooked. There are many points along the route from receiving a prescription and getting it filled that can lead to problems for unsuspecting patients.

Some of these problems can begin with the prescribing physician. He or she may inadvertently write the wrong drug name or instructions. The use of physical handwritten prescriptions can cause a failure to read doctor’s handwriting properly. When this happens, pharmacists may improperly fill the prescription. For electronic prescriptions, the fact that many medications have similar names can make it all too easy for pharmacy staff to select the wrong one from a menu on a computer screen. If in a hospital, problems often involve nurses or other staff administering an incorrect drug.

Issues such as these make patient oversight highly important. Individuals are urged to take note of what drugs they receive. If anything looks odd in any way, asking a question at the time could be the way to avoid a serious mistake later on. For example, a patient who has been taking the same medication for a long time and noticed a different shape or color to the latest batch of pills should call the pharmacy before taking it. A potentially fatal medication error is not worth avoiding such a question.

Anyone who believes that a prescription medication error has occurred may wish to get a legal consultation. Learning the laws can be a valuable way to stay protected.

Source:, “What can I do if the pharmacy gives me the wrong drug?,” May 8, 2014