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How do medication errors occur?

Millions of people across the United States depend on medication to control their conditions and treat their illnesses. You may visit the local pharmacy on a regular basis or even have your prescriptions delivered to your door through a mail-order service. When you receive your prescription, you assume that you have been given the right medication for the condition, in the right dose that will be effective. You may assume that the doctor and pharmacist have checked the medication to ensure you are not allergic to it, and that you will experience minimal side effects from the drug. Although these medical professionals are some of the most trusted in the nation, they are human and are prone to error. Medication errors may be more common than you think.

There are several ways that medication mistakes occur, both at the doctor’s office and at the pharmacy. At the prescribing doctor’s office, the physician may handwrite the prescription in such a way that is illegible by others. For example, a medication written for .50 mg may be dispensed as 50mg. The pharmacy may misread the medication name as well. Nurses may call in the prescription for the wrong patient, or inadvertently give the wrong strength or directions. In some cases, the wrong medication may be prescribed.

The pharmacy team may fill the wrong prescription for the wrong patient or dispense the wrong medication. The pharmacist may fail to read a drug interaction or catch a potential drug overdose.

When leaving the pharmacy, be sure to ask questions regarding your medication. Make sure your name is on the bottle and that you talk to your doctor regarding your treatment.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice. 

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