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What Are Prescription Medication Errors?

Prescription medication errors, also referred to simply as “ medication errors,” involve mistakes in prescribing, dispensing, and administering medications. While some errors are harmless, medication mistakes injure more than 1 million people a year in the United States.Medication errors that cause harm are called “adverse drug events.”

What Are Some Examples of Prescription Medication Errors?

An example of a prescription medication error is taking over-the-counter products that contain acetaminophen when you’re already taking prescription pain medicine that contains acetaminophen, possibly exceeding the recommended dose and putting yourself at risk of liver damage.

Another example of a possible error is taking sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim (used to treat infection) at the same time as warfarin (a blood thinner). This combination can increase your risk of dangerous bleeding.

How Do Prescription Errors Medication Happen?

Poor communication is often to blame for medication errors. The most common causes are:

  • Poor communication between health care providers
  • Poor communication between providers and their patients
  • Sound-alike medication names and medical abbreviations
  • Illegible prescriptions or confusing directions

Are Prescription Medical Errors Preventable?

The good news is that medication errors are preventable events, and there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

One of the best ways to avoid a dangerous prescription medication error is to become an active participant in your health care. This means learning about the medications you take and asking questions of your doctor, pharmacist, and other health care providers.