Medication Error Injury Prevention—Study Recommends Knowing Your Pharmacist

A recent American Pharmacists Association (APhA) survey, that our Maryland Pharmacy Error Injury Attorneys have been following, revealed that 1.5 million people are injured by medication-related errors every year. The APhA commissioned the consumer survey, led by Harris Interactive, to investigate how consumers interact with their pharmacists, and how building relationships with pharmacists can avoid patient error and reduce medication mistakes and pharmacy misfills.

The APhA always recommends that people carry an updated list of their current prescription medications, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, herbal supplements and vitamins. The list should include the name of the medications, the dosage, as well as the conditions that the medications treat. Any patient allergies should also be included in the list.

The study reports that while a large percentage of Americans have an up-to-date list of medications, only 28% of consumers actually carry the list with them at all times—an act that could prevent personal injury and medication mistakes, by providing emergency personnel and pharmacists with lifesaving information regarding drug names, proper dosing, allergy information, and drug interactions and side effects.

According to Kristen Binaso, pharmacist and national APhA spokesperson, until electronic medical records are used as the standard in sharing patient information in the health care industry, consumers should protect themselves by keeping a current medication list with them at all times, to show the doctor and pharmacist—to avoid the risk of improper dosing, medication duplication, pharmacy misfill, and harmful drug side effects and interactions. In a recent post, our Maryland Mistake Attorneys further discussed how these electronic health records will help pharmacists and doctors to eliminate medication errors.

Next to doctors, pharmacists are the second most trusted health care providers and trained medication experts, yet the survey found that 77% of consumers do not know their pharmacists names, and only 40% of consumers have asked their pharmacists valuable questions about their medication needs.

This study goes hand in hand with American Pharmacist Month, where the public education campaign “Know Your Medicine, Know Your Pharmacist,” has been launched to encourage the link between patient and pharmacist, in order to promote the safe and effective use of drug therapy. According to the APhA, medication mistakes cost this country an estimate of $177 billion a year in total direct and indirect healthcare costs.

In an effort to minimize medication mistakes, the APhA recommends that consumers get to know their pharmacists. In the study, consumers who know their pharmacists:

• Were more likely to have an up-to-date list of current medications
• Two-thirds of consumers accepted pharmacist recommendations for OTC drugs
• 60% were more likely to use only one pharmacy to fill prescriptions
• 52% were more likely to ask questions when filling a new prescription

The APhA also recommends that consumers ask the following questions at the pharmacy before taking any types of medication, especially if the patient is on multiple medications, taking supplements or OTC drugs:

• How and when should I take my medication?
• Is this the correct dosage/suffix for the drug?
• How will this medication interact with other medications and supplements?
• What are the potential side effects?
• Discuss the drug ingredients to make sure there aren’t any known allergies.

• How do I get rid of my unused medications safely?

In an earlier post our medication error attorneys suggested a few more steps to help you protect your health and reduce the risk of Maryland medication error injuries:

• Always check the prescription label carefully to verify the name (generic or brand name) of the medication, the dosage, and the directions for their proper use.
• Check your refill medication pills carefully to make sure there is no change in the smell, taste, or appearance of your medication.
• Know your right to be counseled by your pharmacist and to have a family member present while asking your doctor or pharmacist questions.
• Always request written dosage instructions from your doctor or pharmacist to make sure you understand them before you leave the doctor’s office or pharmacy.

• When you enter a hospital, show them your current list of medications, and always ask what drugs the nurses and doctors are giving you.

If you or a loved one have been harmed by a medication mistake in Maryland or Washington, D.C., contact our experienced attorneys at Lebowitz and Mzhen, LLC for a free consultation.

Survey Reveals Most Consumers Do Not Carry a Medication List, Reuters, October 1, 2009
Survey Reveals Most Consumers Do Not Carry a Medication List: Americans Urged to Get to Know their Pharmacist, APhA News Room, October 1, 2009

Related Web Resources:

American Pharmacists Association: APhM, American Pharmacists Month 2009

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