A new report finds a staggering number of drug mistakes each year. Here are some tips to make sure you’re getting the right medicine

7 ways to protect yourself from medication mix-ups: a new report finds a staggering number of drug mistakes each year. Here are some tips to make sure you’re getting the right medicine

Your doctor scrawls a few words on a prescription pad and hands it to you. You know you can’t read it–can your pharmacist?

From getting the prescription wrong to confusing the instructions on drug package inserts, medication mistakes injure at least 1.5 million people every year, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM). At least a quarter of these injuries could be prevented if doctors, patients and pharmacists communicated more effectively, and if patients were more vigilant about their own medication, the report says.

Here are some recommendations from the IOM report to prevent medication mix-ups. Use this list to keep track of every medication you take, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements, and dietary supplements:

1. Any time you get a new prescription, ask a lot of questions. Have your doctor tell you and write down: the name of the drug, what it treats, the dosage, how often to take it, what side effects or interactions it could have, and what to do if you experience side effects.

2. Do your homework. Look up any new medication in drug reference books or on the Internet. If you search the Web, use reputable sources of information, such as the National Institutes of Health (http://medlineplus.gov/).

3. Keep a list of all the medications you are taking. This includes non-prescription and alternative remedies. Take it with you whenever you visit your doctor, a specialist, or your pharmacist.

4. Whenever you get a prescription, ask your pharmacist to go over all of the prescribing information. Make sure that the name of the drug on the prescription matches what’s printed on the bottle. Read through the package insert (if you didn’t receive one, ask for it) for any side effects or interactions. If anything is unclear or concerning, ask the pharmacist. Don’t leave the store until you’re 100 percent comfortable with the medication and how to take it.

5. Ask questions about your medications when you’re in the hospital. Find out the purpose of each drug, its interactions, and whether you’ll have to continue taking it once you’re discharged.

6. Know which side effects have been associated with all of the drugs you’re taking. If you start having any of these symptoms, report them to your doctor immediately.

7. Know your rights. You have the right to make final decisions about your medication, and the right to be told of any drug error that occurs, and the effects it might have on your health.

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