Drug Safety Tips: 9 Ways to Prevent Medication Errors
Learn how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe while taking prescription drugs.
October is American Pharmacists Month. Many people think of a pharmacist as the person in the drug store counting and dispensing medications, but pharmacists do much more than just this. In healthcare settings, pharmacists often work with health care teams to advise other health professionals on the proper dose, availability, side effects and other factors associated with using a medication. Pharmacists play a key role in medication safety.
A CDC survey conducted pre-pandemic found that 48.6% of people in the United States used at least one prescription drug in the past 30 days, and 24% of people used three or more. Given the widespread use of medications, it is no wonder that the medical community takes drug safety very seriously.
The following simple steps will help you keep yourself and your loved ones safe while taking prescription drugs.
9 Tips for Preventing Medication Errors
- Be wary of drug interactions. Inform your providers and pharmacist of all of the medications you are taking, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins, supplements, and recreational drugs.
- Ask questions. When you are prescribed a new medication, make sure you understand why the doctor wants you to take it and the possible side effects.
- Follow the medication instructions. Remembering to take the medication isn’t enough — it must be taken correctly. Check the label to see if the medication should be taken on an empty stomach or with food and/or water. Does it have to be taken at a certain time of day? Make note of any warnings, such as to avoid mixing the medication with alcohol, or to refrain from certain activities while on the medication, such as driving.
- Report adverse drug events. Immediately inform your provider if you have a strange or unexpected reaction to the medication. Almost 700,000 emergency room trips annually are due to adverse drug events.
- Keep medications in a safe place. Make sure your medications are out of reach of children, and that you are storing them as recommended. For example, some medications require refrigeration.
- Discard medications properly. While some medications can safely be disposed of in the trash or can be flushed down the toilet, others should be brought to medication collection sites.
- Don’t share medications. Do not give others your medications or take medications from others, even if you think it is the same dosage or for the same condition.
- Take the medication as prescribed. Thinking of stopping your medication? Consult with your doctor first, even if you are feeling better.
- Ask for help. Need assistance with your medications? If you sometimes forget to take them, consider setting medication reminders on your phone. For more support, talk with a friend, family member, or health advisor.
If you or a loved one need help managing your medications, finding great local doctors, accessing concierge care, or navigating the healthcare system in other ways, reach out to an experienced health advisor.