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Medication errors: What patients can do to prevent them

There are several steps patients can take to prevent undue harm caused by a medication error.

Many adults in New York and in the rest of the U.S. take a prescription medication to help them manage or treat a health condition. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, nearly one-third of all adults in the U.S. take at least five or more medications. Since medication use is so widespread, the risk of patients experiencing an adverse health effect due to a medication error is high, so patients should be aware of strategies that can help prevent a mistake from occurring.

Know all necessary drug information

Rather than simply taking a medication without knowing its specific purpose or use, patients should ask their prescribing physician what the drug does and why they need to take it. Patients should also request that the purpose of the drug be written on the order. This serves as a protection in case there is some confusion about what the name of the medication is.

Understand common errors

Some of the most common medication errors include using the wrong route of administration, administering an improper dose and taking the wrong drug altogether. It is important to note that people over the age of 60 are at a higher risk of harm from a medication error because they often take multiple medications. Children are also at a higher risk since dosage amounts are based on weight, so correct calculations are extremely important.

Ask specific directions

Patients should ask exactly how they should take the drug and when. For example, if the medication needs to be taken three times a day, patients should know if each dose needs to be taken exactly eight hours apart and if they should do so at mealtimes. Patients should also know whether the drug needs to be stored in the refrigerator, what potential side effects it causes and if any food or beverages should be avoided while taking the prescription medication.

Maintain a comprehensive medication list

Patients should put together a comprehensive list of all other-the-counter and prescription drugs they take as well as any dietary supplements, medicinal herbs or other substances used for health reasons. This list should be presented to the treating physician at every appointment.

Reach out to an attorney

Although patients in New York can do their best to prevent medication errors, there are some situations where a harmful mistake cannot be avoided. Those who experienced harm caused by a medication error should contact an attorney in their area for assistance asserting their legal rights.

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