Prescription medications are a necessity for many people. The American Academy of Family Physicians says that, each week, four out of five adults in the United States will use prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs and/or various supplements. Approximately one-third of adults take five or more medications at the same time.
The potential for adverse drug events is elevated when people are taking multiple medications at one time. For example, mixing pills has the potential to cause serious injury or even death.
Doctors, patients and pharmacies must work together to ensure that medication is taken safely. One of the best ways to prevent errors with medications is for patients to take an active role in their health care management.
• Know your dose. Children are at an especially high risk for medication errors because they require different doses than adults, offers the Mayo Clinic. Adults of different weights who share medications can run into trouble as well. It is key to follow the dosing instructions, as even a minor error in regard to dosage can potentially cause a big problem.
• Follow up with your doctor. Certain medications can cause side effects that only can be noticed by lab testing, such as an impact to the liver. Doctors also may be under an obligation to follow up with patients taking psychological drugs to ensure the efficacy of treatment. Make sure you keep all follow-up appointments.
• Maintain a current list of meds. It is up to patients to share information with prescribing doctors regarding any and all products being taken to avoid harmful interactions. Using the same pharmacy for all prescriptions also is helpful.
• Be honest about height and weight. Medication labeling and package inserts typically use metric units to correlate dose to a person’s physical attributes. Individuals should know their information in metric measurements and be honest with themselves about what they weigh.
• Use medications correctly. It is important not to chew nonchewable pills or cut pills unless the pharmacist or doctor has said it is safe to do so. Accurate dosing also requires using the right spoon or syringe, not silverware. Store certain types of medications, such as eye drops and ear drops, separately so they’re not mistaken for one another.
These are just some of the ways to prevent medication errors. People can consult with their doctors and pharmacists for more assistance in staying safe.