In the United States, about 1.3 million are injured every year after committing or following medication errors. According to the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention, a medication error is "any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer...."
Common medication errors include mixing up of drug names, problems reading doctor's penmanship, selling the wrong drug to the consumer, and mixing up prescription with those of other people. Here are things to keep in mind to ensure that this doesn't happen to you.
Clear Everything During the Consultation
When the doctor hands you the prescription, don't just grab it and leave. Examine it thoroughly to see if the handwriting is legible enough for you to understand. Starting from the name of the drug to the dosage and notes, everything should be clear. If there is anything that seems confusing for you, don't hesitate to ask your doctor. Even questions that are not about the doctor's handwriting such as if it is all right to take the medicine before a meal should be brought up.
Check Before You Leave the Pharmacy
It's the same thing when you buy the medicine, you usually just get it and go. This is not a good practice either. Take time to examine the contents of the bag that the pharmacist handed to you and check if it is the same thing as what is written in the prescription. With so many customers to tend to, some pharmacists can unintentionally make the mistake of handing you the wrong medication.
Read the Label
Doing this doesn't mean you don't trust your doctor. It just means that you're extra careful when it comes to important things such as medications. Aside from reading the label to ensure that it's the same as what your doctor prescribed, it would also be a good idea to look it up on a medicine book or a reputable medicine website. This would give you information about the drug such as dosage, side effects, frequency of taking it, whether or not it should be taken with foods or liquids, and so on.
Inspect the Drug
Apart from reading the label, inspect the drug very carefully as well. Keep in mind that drugs aren't always safe, even if you get them from your trusted pharmacy. There are times when counterfeit or poorly manufactured drugs can get into the pharmacy. Check the packaging first. See if there is any error such as spelling mistakes or improper labeling. After that, check the smell, taste, and color of the drug. If something seems odd or dubious, take the drug back to the pharmacy and talk to the pharmacist about this. You can also bring the medicine to the doctor to clarify your doubts and questions.