You’ve heard about people getting the wrong pills — or the wrong dose of the right pills — but what are the odds that something like that could happen to you? Would you believe it’s about one out of five?
That’s how many Americans have experienced medication errors in a hospital. (Medication errors at home range between 2% and 33%, by comparison.)
Take no chances when it comes to your medication
Mistakes happen — but pharmacy errors can be deadly. Whether you’re picking your meds up at the corner drug store or you’re in a hospital setting, you need to be exceptionally cautious before you take or allow yourself to be given a drug.
Pharmacy errors happen for all kinds of reasons. Someone can mistype a decimal point and increase a dosage ten-fold. Some drugs look very similar or have similar names, and a tired or overworked pharmacist can grab the wrong bottle. A nurse may check your wristband and check the name on the pills they’re about to give you, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right one.
How can you protect yourself? Here are some suggestions:
- Know the name (including the correct spelling) and dosage of every medication and vitamin you take. It helps to carry a list with you wherever you go.
- Look at your pills when you get them, whether you’re at the pharmacy counter or in a hospital bed. If you don’t recognize the pill by shape, size, color and markings, ask for the drug to be verified. (With generics, formulary changes can make pills look different from time to time, but you should be informed when that happens.)
- If you’re being given a new drug, ask the doctor to explain why and what side effects are normal.
- Carry a list of your drug allergies and sensitivities with you and make sure the pharmacy has them on record.
Despite your best efforts, you may still end up the victim of a medication error — and the consequences can be devastating. Learning more about your options for compensation can help you chart a path forward.