Reducing Medication Errors

by pharmacy on May 11, 2016

reduce medication errorsEach year, medication errors are among the leading causes or preventable deaths in the United States. The new rules are applicable to biologics, new drugs, over the counter medications, and generic drugs. This is a component of the overall initiative of the FDA to make drug safety a priority. The most common causes of medication errors can be attributed to communication errors between healthcare providers, communication errors between patients and their providers, medication names that sound similar, and medications or packaging that looks similar.

FDA Changes Guidance

In April, the FDA changed the guidelines for the pharmaceutical industry in an attempt to minimize medication errors. The guidelines include recommendations for making the product design and user interface more consumer friendly in a variety of ways, including an improvement to labeling practices, packaging, and product appearance. Manufacturers are also to consider the environments in which their products may be used and the end users who will be using their products when designing and testing new products.

Patient Tips for Reducing Errors

With the attention on reducing medication errors in the news, it is a good time to ensure that your patients are aware of the role they play in reducing medication errors.

  • Make sure all of your healthcare providers know about all prescription and over the counter medications you are taking, as well as supplements.
  • Bring all medications with you to doctors’ appointments.
  • Make sure your doctor and pharmacist knows about any drug allergies or adverse reactions you have had in the past.
  • Make sure you are able to read the prescription you are given, or request an electronic prescription if it is supported by your pharmacy.
  • Ask questions about any medications you are given to ensure you know what it is for, how long you are supposed to take it, how the medication should be taken, and possible side effects or interactions.

How Pharmacies Can Reduce Medication Errors

The role of the pharmacist in preventing medication errors cannot be overstated. The pharmacist is the last opportunity for a healthcare provider to discuss the medication with the patient, and answer any questions. In addition to proper pharmacy procedures to minimize internal mistakes, there are several ways pharmacists can help limit mistakes, such as supporting e-prescribing, reviewing electronic health records prior to dispensing new medications, and taking the time to review all safety printouts with the patient.

As the newly packaged drugs make their way into pharmacies, patients and staff will need time to be accustomed to new information, packaging, and perhaps even the design of their medications. By reviewing best practices with patients now, they will be better able to handle upcoming changes and become more aware of their own responsibility in reducing medication errors. Hopefully, as new products are introduced into the marketplace and all stakeholders become more conscientious of their role, the number of medication errors will begin to diminish dramatically.

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