10 March 2011

Prescriptions – Source for Many Errors - P1

Is this worth a repeat? When I blogged about prescriptions back in November 2010, I had wondered how long before the subject would show up in other sources. The March 2011 issue of Good Housekeeping decided to do an article under Good Health titled Rx for Trouble, subtitled – How to be sure the prescription your doctor orders is the drug your get.

Because I feel this is so important, I will refer you to the blog I wrote above in Nov 2010. The Good Housekeeping article also raised many points and I won't begrudge them their sensationalizing this topic because of the importance. I feel they did a good article and although it is impossible to completely check the facts they used, I would say this is an above average article for them.

They are not pointing out particular pharmacies, but do state that 20 percent of prescriptions have errors according to a 2009 study done by Auburn University. In hospitals the error rate for medications is only 18 percent, which I find a little difficult to believe. I would have thought it would have been much higher from the studies I have been reading, but since I cannot locate the article, I will accept the 18 percent for now.

The article stated that the biggest error was the incorrect transfer of doctors' instructions onto the drug label. They cited alarming omissions like “take before dinner” on a diabetes drug that could cause blood sugar spiking after a meal. Also mentioned was failing to counsel patients about risk drug combinations.

They wisely advised that patients should ask their doctor about any instructions when they give you the prescription(s). This should also be the responsibility of the doctor to insure they give out instructions. Many patients are at fault for going to too many pharmacies to have prescriptions filled, thereby creating problems for drug combination risks that a pharmacist may not be aware of.

Their next advice I have been aware of for years. Try not to have refills done in the first seven days of the month. Why? Because this is the time that many people receive their government assistance checks and get their prescriptions filled. This causes a overload for the pharmacists and prescription errors jump at the beginning of the month.

Here is a checklist as a reminder.
  • If the drug is new to you, have the pharmacist explain the instructions. 
  • If this is a refill, make sure that the medication instructions have remained the same. 
  • Also check the color and size to be assured that the medication has not been changed. 
  • If the prescription is new get it filled then, otherwise if it is a refill, try to wait until the first seven days have passed to have it refilled, or refill before the end of the month. 
  • If something does not look right, do not be afraid the ask questions. 
  • Remember, mistakes do happen and the pharmacist is willing to correct them.
Next, the second half of the Good Housekeeping article – errors in the hospital.

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