Avoiding Medication Errors Starts at HomeWith the daunting news that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the country, patients everywhere are more concerned than ever. That concern is well founded; complex medical jargon, invasive surgical procedures, and new and unfamiliar prescription medication can be intimidating and confusing. However, as a patient, you have a right to be informed and make decisions about your care. When it comes to avoiding errors, you are your own best advocate.

Minimize your risk

Medication errors at home can be the result of a physician’s negligence, a pharmacist’s mistake, or failing to take the medication as prescribed. A recent article from Consumer Reports suggested following these five steps to avoid becoming a victim of home medication errors:


  1. Always read the insert. This small piece of paper tucked in with your medication contains information about dosages, side effects and interactions. Taking extra time to review this information; you may catch something your doctor or pharmacist didn’t tell you.
  2. Use provided measuring devices for liquid medicine. Three people in every four use a kitchen spoon or measuring spoon. When a syringe or dosing cup is provided with your medication, using it can avoid dangerous over- or under-dosing.
  3. Don’t skip doses. Missing a dose of medication for any reason can be risky. Years of research and testing went it to determining exactly how much of a medication should be administered for how long. If you skip doses to save money, talk to your doctor about alternative medications. If you simply forget, use calendars, reminders and other aids to make sure you get your daily dose.
  4. Be careful what you eat. This one goes back to “read the insert.” Your doctor and/or pharmacist should warn you about potential problems, but two of the major offenders here are grapefruit and bananas. These fruits can intensify drug effects or create dangerous chemical imbalances.
  5. Follow the instructions. Only take medication that you are prescribed the way your doctor tells you, and only take that medication for the condition it was prescribed. Splitting pills in half can be dangerous, as can taking old medication for a new condition can have serious side effects.

Home drug mistakes happen more than 500,000 times per year. Often, they are small errors, like taking the wrong pill or forgetting one dose. Consumer Reports said, “As simple as those mistakes sound, they can have serious consequences: At least 90,000 life-threatening or fatal events in this country occur each year as a result of medication errors people make at home.”

Responsibility is in the hands of the professionals

Following these steps can help reduce your risk of becoming a victim of a medication error. However, the responsibility for accurately prescribing and dispensing appropriate medication ultimately lies with your healthcare providers. When professionals fail to observe a reasonable standard of care, the results can range from uncomfortable to fatal.

If you or your loved one is a victim of medical error, you may be entitled to compensation. The experienced Tennessee dangerous drug attorneys at Rocky McElhaney Law Firm can evaluate your case and help get you the compensation you deserve. Call 615.246.5549, visit our offices in Nashville, Gallatin, or Knoxville, or contact us today for a free consultation.