Does picking up your prescriptions scare you a little? If not, maybe it should. Medication mistakes are far more common than people realize.
For example, a study by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) indicates that pharmacies hand the wrong prescriptions over to patients about once per 1,000 prescriptions they fill. That translates to roughly seven times a month in every pharmacy.
How can you guard against mistakes with your prescription?
Knowledge is power, so understanding your risks can help you develop habits that will keep you safer. Some good practices include:
- Make sure that you are handed the correct bag when you pick up your prescription. Before you walk or drive away from the pickup window, check the name and other identifying information on the bag. (This may be particularly important if you have a fairly common name.)
- Open the bag and look at the pill bottles. Make sure they’re what you expect to receive. It’s not impossible to get the right bag and find the wrong medication inside — especially when the pharmacy techs are busy.
- Look at your pills when you open a new bottle. It’s also not impossible for the wrong pills to end up inside an otherwise properly labeled bottle. Pills can change appearance due to formulary and supplier changes, but you shouldn’t take anything that you don’t recognize until you verify what it is. If the medication doesn’t look the same as usual, call the pharmacist.
Right-patient, wrong-medication errors are serious for multiple reasons. You can end up taking something that’s toxic in combination with your other medication. You could take something that’s contraindicated for your condition. Your actual health problem could go untreated until the mistake is discovered, causing your health to deteriorate.
If you or your loved one has been victimized by a pharmacy error, it may be time to consider a medical malpractice claim.