Prescription Medication Errors, More Thoughts

One thing that’s not mentioned in the previous ABC 20/20 report about prescription medication errors is the doctors who write out prescription with sloppy, often unreadable handwriting. I’ve actually gone back to one doctor after getting a prescription and get him to verify what he scribbled because I couldn’t understand what he wrote.

I think Doctors should be required to either write prescriptions by printing them off a computer, or some type of portable label making device or use single space printing, NOT cursive writing. Yes I know you’re busy, but your patients shouldn’t have to risk injury or death because you’re not willing to take the time or make the effort to write out our prescriptions legibly.

Many ADD adults take medications for ADD as well as other medications. We tend to be impulsive, easily distractible and forgetful. ADDers have been known to forget to talk their meds. It’s not too much of a stretch to think that we may be more likely to not double check things like prescription accuracy.

I think everyone should verify when they pick up their prescription medication that:

1. They have the right prescription. For example, if their prescription was for Strattera, make sure that it says Strattera on the bottle and ideally learn what the particular pill should look like and what is printed on the actual pill.

2. That they have the right dose, and how often to take it.

3. That they tell the pharmacist (not a technician) what other medication or herbal medicine they’re taking to make sure there are no interactions. I.e., don’t take St. John’s Wort with SSRI’s because you’re double dosing

4. That they ask the pharmacist what possible interactions there are with the drug and if there’s anything they need to know about taking it. I.e., side effects, don’t take with citrus, take before or during meals etc. If you really want detailed clinical info on the prescription medication your taking you can read things like the Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties in Canada.

Prescription medication can be very useful, but like other things that are powerful you need to know what you’re getting and how to use it properly.
So before getting the prescription filled you might to write down on a separate piece of paper exactly what you were supposed to get, the dose and how often and when to take it. Then compare your note to the final prescription.

This is not to trash all pharmacists or people working in pharmacies. While all people make mistakes, most retail mistakes aren’t likely to cause permanent injury or death. The ABC report implied the main problem with the prescription errors was corporate greed, employee abuse and irresponsibility.

Patients need to be responsible consumers. Maybe more of us should think about what kind of pharmacy we buy our medications from and how they staff their pharmacies and how they treat and train and pay their employees. 15 minutes or less is not always the most important thing when buying medication. Maybe consumers should start thinking about the consequences of always demanding the lowest possible price and what some companies are willing to sacrifice in order to get those lower prices and how those sacrifices might impact you.

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