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Avoid medication errors: Check the prescription bag BEFORE you leave the pharmacy!

Updated: Dec 24, 2020

According to the Institute of Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), one of the most common types of pharmacy errors is giving a correctly filled medication to the wrong patient. This can happen if the pharmacy staff mishear or misunderstand the name of the patient or if there are other mix-ups when packaging medications for the patient to take home.

The following steps can prevent such an error from happening to you or your loved one:

1. Clearly give the name of the patient and include another unique identifier (date of birth, address, phone number).

2. Look at the contents of the bag and make sure that all the medications are exactly what you were expecting to receive.

3. Count the number of medications and check that number against what you were expecting to receive. Ask for an explanation if the numbers do not match.

4. If you are picking up a new prescription or if there is any discrepancy/change, ask for a consultation with the pharmacist, which should reveal any issues with drug, dose, directions, allergies, or indications for use.

Though not a medication error, unexpected billing or insurance issues can sometimes result in higher than expected prescription charges; such issues are also best addressed before the medication leaves the pharmacy since pharmacy rules and regulations prohibit a pharmacy from taking back medications once they leave their control (due to inability to assure drug strength, quality, purity, or identity).

Don't be afraid to alert the pharmacy staff to your concerns - they are best addressed before the medication is taken home.

If you are picking up prescriptions for someone else or if medications are being delivered, please have them reviewed at the earliest opportunity and before they are actually administered. Call the pharmacy with any concerns.

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