The Legal Examiner Affiliate Network The Legal Examiner The Legal Examiner The Legal Examiner search instagram avvo phone envelope checkmark mail-reply spinner error close The Legal Examiner The Legal Examiner The Legal Examiner
Skip to main content

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5 million people are injured each year by medication mistakes, according to the Institute of Medicine. At least one quarter of these are preventable. The following are some tips to help make sure that you are as safe as you can be when taking a new or existing medication:

1. Make a list of the medications, both prescription and nonprescription, dietary supplements, and any vitamins that you take. Keep the list current and take it with you when you visit a doctor.

2. When you get a prescription from a doctor, ensure that he writes down the dose, the name of the drug, and instructions for its use. When you actually get the prescription filled, ensure that the instructions on the bottle match those from the doctor.

3. Be informed. Get as much information, from both the pharmacist and your doctor, regarding usage and side effects as you can.

4. Most prescription medications come with informational pamphlets. If yours doesn’t, ask the pharmacist for one.

5. Be involved in the process. In the hospital, especially before surgery, ask the doctor about potential harmful drug interactions. Are there any drugs you should stop taking, and when should you stop them. Also, you have the right to appoint a medical surrogate to make decisions for you, should you be incapacitated. This includes the right to have the surrogate present and informed whenever you are given medication.

6. Be aware. If your pills look different after a refill, DO NOT assume the manufacturer has changed the shape or color.

All too often, when we are at the pharmacist or the doctor’s office, we go along with attempts to shuttle us out the door after a very brief communication. Resist the urge to simply take the meds and go. If there is something you do not understand, ask questions until you do. Try not to make any assumptions about advice or medications. Above all, get the facts. You want to feel better and your doctor or pharmacist wants to help you in doing so. Putting another set of eyes on a problem never hurt anyone so why not do more to ensure you safety and well being is maintained. We should all be working to reduce medical mistakes and these tips can help ensure you do not become just another statistic.


  1. Gravatar for M. R. Ketchum
    M. R. Ketchum

    When you pick up your prescription make sure it's for the right person, the strength and the form (CR, ER, IR) are correct. A Walgreen's customer died because the pharmacy dispensed 10mg of Coumadin instead of 1mg.

    If the prescription is written for a brand name medication, it's a good idea to know the generic equivalent because you're going to get one if it's available to be dispensed. A non-equivalent generic substitution is a consequential, wrong drug error.

  2. Gravatar for M. Brandon Smith
    M. Brandon Smith

    Those are some great points Dr. Ketchum. Thanks for sharing your knowledge on this very important topic. If anyone else has any other suggestions or tips I encourage you to share them with us to help prevent future errors and unnecessary injuries. Collectively, we can all make a difference.

Comments for this article are closed.