Anytime a person needs to take any medication there is a chance that they may be at risk due to receiving either the wrong medication or the wrong dosage. Sometimes patients put themselves at risk by incorrectly taking the medication. The good news is that medication errors are entirely preventable. The bad news is that, according to the Institute of Medicine, about 1.5 million adverse drug effects occur annually in the United States.

When it comes to proper medication use it is important to remember three principles. Firstly, understand that any medication will have some risks associated with its use, along with its benefits. Secondly, have a healthy respect for the potency of medication when it’s used appropriately. Finally, understand that medicinal safety goes hand in hand in with personal responsibility. A patient must educate him or herself on the proper and safe use of any medication that is prescribed by a doctor.

Patients should inform their doctors of any prescription or over the counter medication that they currently take. They should also include any herbal supplements that they consume regularly because these too can have adverse or unwanted interactions with certain prescriptions.

Before leaving your doctor’s office, always confirm the name of any prescription medication prescribed and the dose amount. Verify the time intervals at which the medication should be taken and for how long. It also helps to read back to the doctor any notes that he or she may have included to verify that they are correct. Ascertain if there will be a need to have any lab tests at some point in the future to ensure that the drug is performing as intended. Also ask if there are possible side effects. Despite all these proactive steps to prevent medication errors, there are times when the doctor may prescribe the wrong dose or the pharmacist may incorrectly fill the prescription. In such cases, when an adverse drug effect leaves the patient in a worsened condition and results in harm, that patient may be entitled for compensation for any negligence on part of the healthcare provider.

Source: AARP, “What You Can Do to Avoid Medication Errors,” Education & Outreach, Accessed November 2014