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Tips to Avoid Pharmacy Prescription Errors

A young single mother with low blood pressure, a man with a thyroid condition, a woman experiencing pregnancy complications, and a 9-year-old with tuberculosis. At first glance, it may appear that these four have nothing in common. But all were injured because of pharmacy prescription errors — errors that could have been prevented.

According to a 2003 Auburn University study, over 56 million prescription errors are made by American pharmacists each year. The same study projected that a consumer has a one in 1,000 chance of getting a prescription with a serious, life-threatening error. With doctors writing more and more prescriptions each year, and pharmacies employing people who are underqualified, overworked or both, it is important for consumers to educate themselves about their medications in order to keep an eye out for potential mistakes.

Protecting Yourself From Potential Errors

While only the pharmacy and its employees can prevent an error, consumers can take several steps to protect themselves from being injured by a prescription error:

  • Confirm the name of your prescription. As soon as your doctor gives you your prescription, read it aloud and ask your physician to confirm it.
  • Verify the dosage. When you ask about the drug name, also ask about the dosage. If your doctor says to take it twice a day with food, make sure what the pharmacy gives you has the same instructions.
  • Find a reputable pharmacy. Many preventable errors are made by improperly supervised pharmacy clerks or technicians with little or no training. Go to a pharmacy that has more than a single licensed pharmacist. You can also check with the Florida Board of Pharmacy (under the Division of Medical Quality Assurance) to verify the status of a pharmacist’s license and see if he or she has any past disciplinary actions.
  • Check the prescription. Read the label and check the pills or liquid before you leave the pharmacy and again before you ingest the medication. Resources like drugs.com are great, as they show you what a certain medication should look like. If refilling a prescription, be sure to take notice of any differences from the pills you took previously.
  • Ask questions before you sign for your prescription. Pharmacists are required by federal law to counsel customers about prescription drugs. Each time you sign for your prescription, you are waiving your right to counseling from the pharmacist. Speak with the pharmacist and ask what the drug is for, how you should take it and for how long. Tell the pharmacist what other drugs or supplements you are taking and ask if your prescription will interfere with anything else you are taking. Ask what happens if you miss a dose. Make sure you understand what you are taking and why.

While a good start to protecting yourself, these steps are not foolproof. If you or a loved one is injured because of a negligent pharmacy, contact an attorney experienced in handling pharmacy prescription errors, like those at Greenberg Stone and Urbano To learn more, visit us at www.sgglaw.com.

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