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How patients can help to prevent medication errors

New Mexico residents put their trust in several different types of medical professionals when getting treatment for illnesses. These include pharmacists, who have the responsibility of correctly interpreting prescriptions and dispensing medications. Sometimes pharmacists make mistakes, and the consequences for the patient could be serious. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices has some advice for patients that could help them to spot pharmacy errors before taking potentially unsafe medications.

Patients who understand the medications they are taking are in a better position to spot errors, an ISMP officer says. Patients are advised to ask doctors to include the reason for the medication on the prescription, which can help the pharmacist to avoid confusing a drug with one that has a similar name but an entirely different use.

Patients are also advised to check their prescription bottle labels while still at the pharmacy for any errors, and to look at the pills in the bottles to see if they look the same as they usually do. If it is a new prescription, the pharmacist should counsel the patient on the drug, and patients can always ask the pharmacist questions about their medications. Errors to look for include the wrong name on the label, the wrong dose, the wrong number of pills or instructions to take too many or too few pills.

After taking a drug, any unusual taste or side effects can be reported to the pharmacy or the patient's physician. The ISMP encourages patients to report any medication errors to the pharmacy and doctor, as well as the pharmacy board and the ISMP website.

Prescription errors are quite common, and though many do not cause appreciable harm to patients, some can have injurious effects or even cause death. Medication errors can happen in hospitals as well, and those who have been harmed in such a manner may want to discuss their situation with a medical malpractice attorney.

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