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Protecting yourself from prescription errors

One-third of adults in the United States take five or more prescription medications. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an adverse drug event (ADE) accounts for about 700,000 emergency department visits every year. How can you ensure that the medicines you take are the right ones? By following these tips:

1. Talk to your doctor and/or pharmacist about all the medications you take, including over-the-counter medications and any herbal remedies you use.

2. Always ask the pharmacist what the medicine is for. If you are supposed to be taking medication for high blood pressure and are given an antibiotic, you know there is a problem.

3. Tell your doctor about any adverse reaction to a drug you have taken before.

4. Keep a log of when you take each medication. There are many good smartphone apps that can help you stay on track. It can also help to incorporate your medication times into your routine. For example, take your nighttime medication right before you brush your teeth.

5. Know the side effects of each medication that you take. Know what to do in the event you experience an adverse reaction. You should know whether the reaction is an emergency or if you can make a call to your doctor. This information should be in the paperwork you receive from the pharmacy.

6. Never share prescription medications with another person or take someone else's medicines.

7. Keep your medication in the original containers.

8. Always check the bottle before taking anything. At night, turn on the light before taking your medication to know which medicine you're taking.

9. When you refill a prescription, check for changes. If the pills are a different shape or color, ask the pharmacist why.

10. When you're in the hospital, ask a family member to help you make sure you're getting the right medications.

11. Communicate with your doctor and other healthcare professionals. You have to be honest with your healthcare team to ensure you're getting the right treatment.

12. If you think you might have a hard time understanding the information you receive about your new prescription, ask a family member or friend to go with you.

Know your rights in a case of medical malpractice

Many medication errors do no harm or do not cause an ADE. However, the risk is higher than ever with so many pharmaceutical advancements and more people taking prescription drugs. If you've been a victim of a prescription error, you should know and understand your legal rights and responsibilities.

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