Reducing drug errors: Some tips for patients

July 9, 2007

Here is some information that pharmacists might want to share with patients.

Pharmacists may want to pass the following advice along to their patients. It comes from James O'Donnell, Pharm.D., associate professor of pharmacology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and a frequent expert witness in drug error trials.

  • Read the prescription back to the doctor before leaving the exam room. Make note of the drug name and dosage instructions.
  • Ask for Rx drug counseling from the pharmacy. Don't sign the pharmacy log for the Rx until the pharmacist has given counseling and clear directions.
  • Read the label on the Rx bottle while at the pharmacy. Make sure that it is what the doctor prescribed.
  • Inform the R.Ph. of all the meds being taken and any chronic health conditions.
  • Allow time for the pharmacist to fill the Rx. Don't expect the pharmacist to rush.
  • Research the drug on the Internet before taking any new medication. Pictures of the pills on the Web will help verify that the correct med has been filled. Directions and precautions are also on many pharmaceutical Web sites.
  • Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.
  • Report any adverse effects immediately to your doctor and strictly follow the guidelines of the doctor and R.Ph.

The Connecticut Pharmacists Association (CPA) recommends pharmacists ask patients to become their partner in patient safety. CPA recommendations for pharmacists and patients include the following:

  • Get to know your pharmacist. He or she is your biggest ally in making sure that you are taking your mediations properly.
  • Use one pharmacy. Your pharmacist will be able to monitor for drug interactions and side effects if he or she knows all the meds you are taking. When in doubt, call first. You aren't bothering the pharmacist when you have a question.
  • Follow up with what you have done to create as safe an environment as possible for your patients: investment in technology, e-prescribing, how you deal with look-alike/sound-alike drugs, and what process you have in place for tracking errors and educating staff?

For fact sheets to give to patients, visit