People rely on their medications to treat or manage their illnesses and health conditions, but what happens when something goes wrong? Medication errors refer to many mistakes in prescribing, dispensing or giving medications, and they injure thousands of people in the U.S. each year.
Fortunately, most medication errors are entirely preventable. The people involved in your care or the care of your loved ones need to do their job.
How medication errors can occur
In nearly all cases, medication errors are the result of human error. Perhaps your pharmacist misheard an order over the telephone or selected the wrong drug after entering the first few letters of its name. Maybe you received the incorrect instructions for taking your medications or the wrong dose. Knowing how mistakes occur means healthcare providers are supposed to have systems in place to stop errors. The most common causes of medication errors include:
- Drug names that sound similar or lookalike
- Medical abbreviations
- Poor communication between your doctors
- Poor communication between your doctor and you
How you can prevent medication errors
When it comes to your medications, knowledge is power. If there’s something you don’t understand or suspect something is amiss, your doctor should tell you:
- The possible side effects and what you should do if they occur.
- If it is a new drug, whether this new drug will interfere with any food, drinks or other medications.
- What you should do if you miss a dose or accidentally take more than the recommended amount.
- What the drug does, and when will you see results.
Your healthcare provider should ask about:
- Any drugs you are allergic to or that have caused issues in the past
- If you have any severe or chronic health problems
- If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
- For a list of all medications you take and when you take them, including prescription medications, vitamins, supplements, herbs, over-the-counter medicines, vaccines or any other drugs.
Many of these questions are mandatory under Medicare and can save a life.
The bottom line
When it comes to preventing detrimental medication errors healthcare providers have to do their job. If you think you or a loved one have suffered a serious injury because of a medication error we will investigate and if it was negligence or something worse that was the cause we can use the law to help.