Getting the “RIGHT” Medication…

Getting the “RIGHT” Medication…

prescription drugs hands 11.27.12

Meet guest blogger Barbara Bronson Gray.  Barbara is an award-winning writer and a nationally recognized health expert. Through her work on, Barbara aims to educate & empower people to be the boss of their own bodies.  Barbara is also a regular contributor to, and She has worked in hospitals, as a nurse and as an administrator, led a major healthcare magazine, created a website for WebMD, and served as a leader of global communications for Amgen, the world’s largest biotech company. She continues to write and speak about healthcare and has a communications consultancy. Follow her on Twitter: @bbgrayrn.

“No matter what medication you or your family members are taking, how long you’ve been taking the drugs, or how effective the medication may be for you, there’s one thing you must know: you are at some significant risk of being the victim of a medication error.

It can happen at any point in the process, from the moment your healthcare provider jots down or emails the prescription, to when the pharmacist is filling the order, to when you pick up the medication and then, of course, when you actually take it.

A few weeks ago, I was picking up a brand new prescription at the drug store. As I was walking out the door, I thought I should check the label and be sure it was correct. Sure enough, it wasn’t. The medication had my name on the label, but instead of the drug I was prescribed, I was given oral codeine.

When I told the assistant at the counter about the problem, she confirmed that it was indeed for me, because, she said, it was my name on the label. She told me, “This is codeine, and it is what your doctor ordered for you.”

I told her that my physician had ordered a completely different drug. Long story short, it turns out there is another woman in my town with my name, Barbara Gray. The codeine was intended for her.

Some medication errors are just annoying. Others can be serious or fatal. If you’re highly allergic to the drug, if you take too much, if you don’t get enough, or if you need a daily dose of something and don’t get it: these can all have serious ramifications.

Here are a few things you can do to prevent problems associated with medication mistakes:

  • Know and fully understand what your healthcare provider is prescribing for you and why. Before you leave the office, be sure your know the name of the drug, its purpose, the intended dose, how often you should take it, when you should take it and what you should do if you skip a dose.
  • Ask whether there are any potential bad or unexpected reactions you should be aware of. Learn, too, if there are any normal reactions for which you should be prepared.
  • If you can, make a copy of the prescription before you give it to the pharmacy. Keep the copy in your healthcare file for reference.
  • When you pick up the medication, make sure the drug is indeed exactly what was ordered. Even if you’re in a rush, take the time to check your name and address, the name of the medication, the dose, how often it says you should take the drug, and whether the drug is a pill, a syrup, an ointment or an injection. Review the details carefully. It’s relatively easy for a 5.0 mg dose to be misread as 50 mg or 0.5 mg. Between bad handwriting and typos, it’s not hard to imagine how mistakes can be made.
  • If the written instructions about the medication differ in any way from what your healthcare provider told you, talk directly with the pharmacist and find out why.
  • If, after taking the medication, you have any unusual reaction at all, talk with your healthcare provider or the pharmacist right away.

It’s said that the devil is in the details. Think of the hundreds of medications that are processed in your local pharmacy every day. When it comes to taking medications, you’ve got to be on the alert for small mistakes that could create big problems.”

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