What can New Mexico patients do to help avoid medication errors?

Medication errors are an all too common danger facing patients in New Mexico, but there are things they can do to help improve their safety.

People in New Mexico and elsewhere are commonly prescribed medications to treat acute or chronic ailments, or for any other number of reasons. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human reported in March of 2015 that almost one-third of all American adults take at least five medications. Relying on their physicians' guidance, people rarely expect to experience an adverse reaction as a result of taking drugs that are prescribed to them. However, medication errors occur all too often, and commonly result in worsened medical conditions or death for patients. While not all such effects are avoidable, there are some things people can do that may help reduce their risk of prescription drug mistakes.

Maintain an updated list of current medications

Even if they are in good health, it is common for people to have more than one health care provider they see on a regular basis, all of whom may prescribe them medications. Particularly if their medical professionals are not in communication with one another, this may lead to dosing errors, duplications, omissions and other such medication mistakes. Keeping an updated list of the drugs and other such products they are currently taking may help people avoid such issues. In addition to the names and dosages for any prescription or over-the-counter medications they are on, their lists should include any medicinal herbs, nutritional supplements and vitamins that they are using.

Confirm the name and dosage

When it comes to making sure the drug the doctor wants to give them is the one that is prescribed and administered, people often leave the responsibility to their health care providers. However, many medication errors are the result of misread prescriptions, confused medical abbreviations and sound-alike medication names. Thus, patients may help prevent some medication mistakes by confirming what they are prescribed and administered is what the doctor tells them they will be getting. They should check the prescription to make sure the name and dosage match the instructions they got in the office, and verify that the information matches the prescription label.

Follow the directions

Different medications may have different indications for use. When people are starting a new prescription, they should ensure they understand the directions, including how much they should be taking and how many times a day they should be taking it. Patients may ask how many hours should they allow between doses and whether there are any foods or drinks they should avoid while on the drug. Following the indications may help ensure the drugs are as effective as possible and help avoid potentially serious effects from improper use.

Check for interactions

Although health care professionals and pharmacies should take precautions not to allow such medication errors to occur, sometimes people are prescribed drugs that interact with other prescription or over-the-counter medications and other such substances. To help avoid negative interactions, it may be helpful for people to ask their doctors and pharmacists about the potential any time they are prescribed a new medication. Additionally, they may choose to double-check for themselves using an online tool.

Seek legal counsel

As a result of adverse drug events, people in New Mexico may experience worsened medical conditions and require further medical treatment, which may lead to undue expenses and lost wages. In some situations, the health care professional, pharmacist or pharmacy, or pharmaceutical manufacturer may be held liable for the losses resulting from medication errors. Working with an attorney may help people identify if the mistakes in their cases might have been preventable, as well as explain their rights for pursuing financial compensation.