What are the odds you’ll end up the victim of a pharmacy error? Would you believe about four out of 10? Don’t worry though – only about one out every five doses of medication given in a hospital are likely to be a mistake.
Pharmacy errors are distressingly common in the United States, despite all the precautions that are supposed to be taken. A distracted nurse can misread a dose or pull the wrong medication, and your trusted pharmacist can have the exact same problems.
As a patient, is there anything you can do to try to protect yourself? Absolutely.
Things patients can do to minimize their own risk
Whether you’re in a hospital or picking up your prescriptions at a pharmacy, the two most important things you can do is to be observant and ask questions. This means:
- Always know the generic name of your medication – not just the brand name. The generic name is likely to be on your bottle. Make sure you also know your dose. If you can’t remember, it should be on your office summary visit or you can write it down.
- Look at your prescription bottles. Make sure that the label reflects the correct drug’s name, the dosage you expect to see and the right prescribing doctor.
- If you’re being given medication in the hospital, even by IV, ask what the drug is and why it was prescribed. That will help reduce the risk you’re getting something intended for another patient.
- Before you take a pill, look at it. This means both when you’re at home and when you’re in the hospital. If it’s one of your regular medications, make sure that it looks like you expect it to look. If it doesn’t, ask if there’s a formulary change that is causing the difference before you take the drug.
If you have been injured by a prescription drug mistake or your loved one was killed, you have probably been the victim of medical malpractice. It’s wise to learn more about your legal options as soon as possible.