By 2020, 157 million Americans are expected to live with more than one chronic condition, for which they require medication. Patients in this situation see up to 16 doctors a year. This perhaps explains why medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States. With so many different healthcare professionals dealing with so many different patients, each with multiple conditions that need treating, communication failures and medical mix-ups are almost inevitable. As a patient, you should not blindly trust your pharmacist to provide the right medication, but instead, take some responsibility for ensuring you are taking the correct prescription.
Dangers of taking the wrong prescription
Medication often works by damaging disease-carrying cells. For instance, chemotherapy kills cancer cells to help a patient to recover, but will also affect healthy cells. So if you take cancer medication, but don’t have cancer, you will have all the side effects, with no increase in health. This can lead to severe illness and even death. Mistakes in birth control packaging could lead to your prescription not working, with placebos occasionally being placed in the wrong section. So at best, your medication won’t work, but there are steps you can take to limit the chances of this happening.
Become familiar with your pills
Although pills might largely look the same, on closer inspection you should be able to tell them apart. Pharmacists make sure that pills are easily distinguished. When you receive your first prescription, note its physical form, shape, color, size etc. Write these qualities down so that you always remember what your pill should look like. When you pick up your prescription, examine the pills inside the package or bottle. If something has changed, inform your pharmacist immediately. They will be able to double check that the medication you have received is used to treat your condition. Never take a pill until you are certain that it is the right one.
Watch out for typical side effects
When you first start taking your medication, you may feel certain side effects. Note these down in as much detail as you can. This way, you will notice if your symptoms change. If you have picked up a new prescription and are feeling different side effects to before, then it may be that you have the wrong medication or the wrong dosage for the right medication. See your doctor immediately to discuss any changes in side effects, especially if you aren’t seeing the same improvements. The more quickly you can identify a mistake, the less chance there is of negative health effects.
In almost every case, doctor’s work tirelessly to provide their patients with the right treatment. However, like all humans, they make mistakes. You need become fully aware of the medication you require by being intimately familiar with its physical appearance and side effects. This acts as a last line of defense against mistakes and ensures you get the treatment you require.