October: A Good Time to Talk About Prescriptions

A 2011 report on global drug trends and patterns determined that while the United States had only five percent of the world’s population, it consumed 75 percent of the world’s prescription drugs. A study by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies revealed that more than 1.5 million Americans are injured each year as a result of errors made in prescribing, administering and monitoring prescription drugs. In a nationwide effort to raise awareness about the prevalence and dangers of prescription medications, October has been designated Talk About Prescriptions Month, which culminates with Prescription Errors Education and Awareness Week.

This year’s message from the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) is Safe use. Safe storage. Safe disposal. Consider whether you feel well-informed about the medicines you take, whether the medicines are stored in a secure location and how you dispose of expired medications. The NCPIE also encourages people to discuss these issues with their elderly loved ones, because seniors often take multiple prescriptions and are at a greater risk for errors.

Ways to help yourself include:

  • Asking if there are any foods you should avoid while on your medication Grapefruit, coffee, milk and alcohol are all known to cause problems with certain medications
  • Disclosing to your doctor all of the medications you are taking, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and dietary supplements
  • Getting a written summary about the medication and reading it before you take your first dose
  • Going to the same pharmacy so that your prescription records are all in one place and potential interactions are more likely to be flagged
  • Making sure you completely understand what is being prescribed to you, what the medication is supposed to do for you, and that you are not taking both a generic and brand-name version of the same drug
  • Never taking someone else’s medicine
  • Not buying from an online pharmacy
  • Not pressuring your doctor to prescribe drugs you’ve seen in advertisements, but rather, allowing your medical professional to make prescriptions based on professional opinions
  • Storing your medicines in a safe location away from children
  • Understanding potential side effects and how to manage them
  • Using medicine take-back programs for unneeded or expired medications.

Take an active role in your healthcare and don’t just assume that you’ve been given the appropriate drug. Knowing what drugs you’ve been prescribed and double-checking that what you’ve received from the pharmacy matches can avoid serious health consequences. If you’re unsure of whether you’ve been given the correct pill, you can refer to a resource like this pill identifier for help.

Errors in drug administration are a real risk. Although medical professionals are expected to prescribe and provide the right medication in the right dose to the right person, the reality is that medication errors are one of the most common types of medical malpractice. These errors can result in allergic reactions, dangerous drug interactions, delayed treatment, organ failure and even death. Being proactive about your health can make a world of difference.

Heavily involved in the Pikeville community, the Johnson Law Firm cares about the well-being of Kentuckians everywhere. We provide experienced legal representation for people who have been injured as the result of a doctor’s, pharmacy’s or hospital’s prescription error. If you have been injured or lost a loved one as the result of mistakes related to medication, or if you have any questions about this topic, please contact us by calling 606-433-0682 or by using our online form.

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