You and your husband both suffer from heart irregularities. You were diagnosed with bradycardia, a slow heartbeat, while your husband suffers from tachycardia, a fast heartbeat. You always joke that when you’re together your hearts level out and beat as one normal rate, however to actually make that happen you both have to take medications. You take digoxin in order to level out your heart rate, while your husband takes an antiarrhythmic medication to slow down his heart rate.
Normally, you pick up your prescription a week before your husband picks up his prescription. Not only does this help prevent confusion with whose pill is whose, but it also allows you to remind him to call his in before he runs out. Unfortunately, this well thought out plan failed this month, as a result of your husband going out of town. Instead of the week difference, your husband called in his prescription on the same day that you were picking up yours. Due to the confusion, and the fact that you both have the same last name and address, the pharmacist accidentally gave you his pills instead of your own. Not thinking that this could be a possibility, you paid for them and took them home. Before bed, you absentmindedly popped “your” pill and snuggled into your bed to read.
It took about 45 minutes before you started to feel funny. You got incredibly dizzy, and couldn’t seem to catch your breath. You were just about to call an ambulance when your husband came home from work with a pharmacy bag. He came into the room laughing that you had apparently picked up his medication by mistake. His laughing stopped as soon as he took one look at you. As he stooped down to take your pulse, you explained that you had taken one of his pills thinking they were your own.
His face became white as a sheet as he grabbed the phone, dialed 911 and told you your pulse was only 40 beats per minute.
How could you be so stupid? You’re usually so careful. Why didn’t you check the label before taking the darn pill?
Checking Label Information Could Prevent a Tragedy
According to a study performed by the National Institute of Health, 25 percent of all medication errors are attributed to name confusion, and 33 percent to packaging and labeling errors. This means that thousands of people every year are injured, hurt, and even killed because a pharmacy misprinted a label, or they themselves failed to properly check their prescriptions. This is why, no matter how long you’ve been taking a particular drug, or how long you’ve been going to the same pharmacist for your prescriptions, you need to always check the label to make sure you’re getting what you’re supposed to be taking.
The next time you pick up your prescription make sure you double check the label information for the following:
- Your name – Make sure that the prescription the pharmacy gave you is actually your own, especially if you have relatives who fill their prescriptions at the same pharmacy. People have been known to accidentally receive prescriptions intended for their siblings, parents, or even total strangers with the same first or last names.
- Expiration date – Even if you just picked up the prescription, make sure the expiration date is at least a month away before taking it. Mistakes have been known to occur where the pharmacy holds an old prescription—either you forgot to pick it up or it was filled without your knowledge—and accidentally gives you the expired one by mistake.
- Quantity – Double check that the quantity of pills within the bottle match the amount of days in which you’re supposed to take them. This will help you keep track and make sure you paid the right amount for the quantity.
- Correct dose – Keep track of all your medication doses in order to compare them to the prescription labels. Always make sure that the pharmacy has given you the correct dose, or has spoken to you if the pills have changed doses and requires you to cut the new ones in half or take more. Verify with your doctor before modifying your dose—no matter what the pharmacy says.
- Pill description – Sometimes pill manufacturers can change the size, shape, and color of their pills, or your insurance company can switch you from brand name medication to generic, causing your pills to look different. Make sure you compare the actual pill with the description and name on the bottle. Look for descriptions such as “this medication is round, blue and has a “P” printed on it. If the pill in the bottle is green, square, and has PX-17 written on it, you have a problem. Don’t take it, and return to the pharmacy for clarification
Assumptions Can Be Bad for Your Health
Although you should be able to trust that your pharmacy is giving you the correct prescription, you should never put your health in the hands of an assumption. Even though it may be annoying, every time that you pick up a new prescription, open a new bottle of pills, or dole out your medication, make sure you double check the label. Individual states are attempting to crack down on pharmacies for a reason, and you don’t want to wind up as just another victim of mislabeling or faulty filling of medications. Check your prescriptions before you take them as an added health precaution.
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