In the United States, more than 8 in 10 adults take at least one prescription medication, with almost a third of adults taking 5 or more. Given the widespread use of medications, it is no wonder the medical community takes drug safety very seriously.

We spoke to Ulka Campbell, PhD, a drug safety epidemiologist from Pfizer, to get the inside scoop on drug safety. "There is a large community of experts working in government, academia, and the pharmaceutical industry to identify potential safety issues with medicines, evaluate their impact on public health, and communicate them to prescribers and patients in a timely and effective manner,” says Campbell.

At Better Health Advisors, we believe that patients should take an active role in medication safety. Here are our top 9 tips for preventing medication errors:

  1. 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.
  2. Ask questions. When being prescribed a new medication, make sure you understand the reason for which the medication is being prescribed and the possible side effects.
  3. Make note of how the medication should be taken. Check the bottle to see if the medication should be taken on an empty stomach or with food and/or water. Make note of warnings about substances that should not be mixed with medications, such as alcohol, or activities that you should refrain from doing while on the medication, such as driving.
  4. Report adverse drug events. Immediately inform your provider if you have a strange or unexpected reaction to the medication and seek care if needed. Almost 700,000 emergency room trips annually are due to adverse drug events (ADEs).  
  5. Ask for help.For those with chronic illness or those who are unable to safely manage their medications, find someone to help such as a friend, family member, or health advisor.
  6. Keep medications in a safe place. Make sure your medications are out of reach of children and are stored in an appropriate place.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Take the medication as prescribed. Consult with your doctor before stopping your medication, even if you are feeling better.

For more information about drug safety or for help managing your medications, contact Better Health Advisors.