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How can you prevent a pharmacy error?

You may trust your pharmacist, but it's a mistake to assume that he or she is infallible. Despite all the precautions that are taken, pharmacy errors happen every day, and some of them can be lethal. Even if a medication error isn't fatal, it can make you very sick.

What can you do to help prevent pharmacy errors with your medication? There are some important steps that you can take that can help you reduce your risk of a pharmacy error.

1. Know your medications.

Make sure that you know the name of the medication you are supposed to be taking. Check the prescription bottle to see if it is the name you expect. If it isn't, ask the pharmacist if that's a generic name or an unfamiliar brand name for what you were expecting.

This can prevent errors that sometimes happen when drugs have similar names. For example, Lamictal and Lamisil are sometimes confused, although one is a drug for epilepsy, and the other is an antifungal.

2. Look at the pills.

If you have received the medication before, make sure that the pills you receive are the same each time you refill the prescription. From time to time, a drug company will switch the design of a pill, but pharmacists usually add a sticker to the bottle to let patients know that it's still the same medication.

If a pill seems larger, smaller or shaped differently, has letters or numbers you don't recognize or is a different color than you expect, ask questions.

3. Ask about the dosage.

Find out the dosage and ask for instructions if you aren't sure how to use a drug. For example, some migraine drugs come with a second dose, but it's important to wait at least an hour after the first dose before you take the second. Otherwise, you can experience dangerous side-effects.

Essentially, make it your job to check up on the pharmacist. While it's possible to hold the pharmacist accountable for errors, it's far better to stay safe.

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