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What are some common prescription errors?

Even a minor error when prescribing a drug can have major consequences. Along with prescribing the wrong medication, a doctor or pharmacy might get the dosage wrong or mistake one drug for another. Medscape.com explains some of the most common prescription errors so that patients can plan an active role in their health.

Misread prescriptions

All jokes about illegible doctor's handwriting aside, poor penmanship can lead to serious prescription errors. For instance, a doctor may write down the correct medication and dosage, but pharmacy staff may misread sloppy handwriting and end up prescribing a completely different drug. While electronic prescription methods clear up errors related to penmanship, it’s still possible for drug mix-ups to occur. This is often the case with drugs that have similar names, which may be transposed by staff.

Problems with drug modifiers

Prescription rules can change depending on drug modifiers. For instance, sustained release capsules will be taken differently than extended release. Giving prescription instructions for the wrong modifier can result in taking more medication than you’re supposed to. It can also result in the patient receiving a lower dose, which interferes with effective treatment.

Prescribing the wrong drug

Members of medical staff are subject to error. If a doctor mistakenly prescribes a drug, the hope is that the issue will be discovered by someone else before the wrong drug is given to the patient at the pharmacy. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Even drug errors that trigger alerts in electronic systems are overlooked, which can cause grave harm to befall the patient. Being provided the wrong drug not only interferes with a patient’s treatment regimen, it can also result in an adverse reaction if the patient is taking a conflicting drug. 

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