Tips for Avoiding Medication Errors At the Doctor’s Office

  • Before your appointment, make a complete list of all medications you take, including prescription and no-prescription medicines and nutritional supplements. Whenever your medications change, be sure to update your list.
  • Ask your doctor to explain your prescription, including the drug name, how often you should take it and what the purpose of the medication is.
  • As you age, some drugs may affect your body differently, so ask your doctor periodically if it may be time to adjust dosages of medications you have been taking for a long time.

At the Pharmacy

Pharmacists play a major role in preventing medication errors. Using one pharmacy will help your pharmacist keep a complete record of all your prescription medicines and cross-check for potential drug interactions. If you get an emergency or mail-order prescription filled elsewhere, bring the container to your usual pharmacist, so the information can be entered into your file.

When picking up a prescription, be sure your pharmacist gives you printed information about your medication and you have clear answers to the following questions:

  • What are the brand and generic names of the medications?
  • What should the medication my doctor prescribed look like?
  • How much should I take and how often?
  • Is there a best time to take it?
  •  How long will I need to take it?
  • Are there potential side effects, and what should I do if they happen?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?
  • Does this medication interact with my other medications or with any foods?
  • Does this medication replace anything else I have been taking?
  • Should I avoid any liquids, foods, other substances or activities while using this medicine?
  • Could I become tolerant, dependent or addicted to this medicine? If so, how can I avoid this?
  • Where can I get more information about this medicine?
  • If the directions say to take the medication every three or four hours, ask if that means throughout the night as well as during the day.
  • Is this medication available in a child-resistant container?
  • What is this medication’s expiration date?

When you buy over-the-counter medications, read the labels carefully- they may contain ingredients you do not want or should not take. Ask your pharmacist for help if you have difficulty selecting the right product.

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