Top 5 Most Common Prescription Drug Errors

When taken correctly, prescription drugs can improve a patient’s quality of life, and reduce their likelihood of experiencing serious adverse events related to a certain condition. However, when taken incorrectly, prescription drugs can pose significant harm.

While some medication errors can be relatively harmless, some have the potential to be fatal, such as combining an opioid with a sedative.

According to an article published by Mount Sinai Medical Center, the top 5 common mistakes patients make with their prescription drugs are as follows:

1. Lack of awareness of expiration dates
Although expiration dates are printed on the bottle or label, many patients do not pay attention to the date. When patients are unaware of when their medications expire, they may unknowingly put themselves at risk for experiencing problems related to safety or efficacy.

2. Taking the incorrect dosage
Remembering specific directions for a prescription drug may be relatively simple for 1 drug, but when more are added to a regimen, patients are at an increased risk of not taking the drugs as prescribed, according to the article. This may be especially prevalent among elderly patients who have numerous comorbidities that each require drug therapy.

3. Rate of usage
In light of the opioid epidemic, states are now creating various initiatives to prevent individuals from using prescription drugs at an inappropriate rate. Some patients with opioid misuse disorder may seek prescriptions from multiple physicians, or steal prescriptions from friends or family members.

4. What time of day to take the drug
Certain prescription drugs must be taken at a specific time of day to have the optimal effect. If the drugs are not taken at the designated time, it may not elicit the desired effect. For example, Mount Sinai reported that cholesterol-fighting drugs should be taken at night to combat increased cholesterol production during that time of day.

5. Combining drugs without physician guidance
Because many patients take vitamins, physicians should be informed of these supplements due to the potential for adverse events. Over the counter allergy and heartburn drugs tend to not react well with some prescription drugs, according to the article. Additionally, birth control pills may have interactions with some vitamins or antibiotics that results in a less effective contraceptive method. 

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