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What should you ask your doctor to avoid medication errors?

Like most Providence residents, when you are prescribed a medication it would seem natural to trust that your doctor and pharmacist know what they are doing. Unfortunately, mistakes involving prescription drugs occur on a regular basis across the country. Common medication errors you might encounter could include being given the wrong dosage instructions, getting your medication switched for another that has a similar-sounding name or taking your new medication with others that are not safely combined.

Medication mistakes can have consequences ranging from uncomfortable side effects to death. Is there anything you can do that might reduce your risk of becoming another medication error statistic? According to the Mayo Clinic, it is wise to make a list of the following questions to ask your doctor or pharmacist before starting a new prescription:

What is the intended result of this medicine, and are there alternate treatments that might be safer?

What are some side effects I should watch out for? Which ones would require emergency medical treatment?

How much should I take, how many times a day and for how long?

Will the other medications and supplements I’m taking cause an adverse reaction with this prescription?

If I accidentally miss a dose or take too much, what might happen?

What else should I know about the medication I’m about to take? Should I avoid certain drinks, foods or activities while taking this drug?

These questions are important not only to educate you on your prescription, but to alert your doctor of any potential complications, such as an herbal supplement or over-the-counter painkiller you regularly take. Informed questions may also clear up a miscommunication between your doctor and other medical providers or the pharmacist – for example, being given the wrong medication if your pharmacist misinterpreted the doctor’s handwriting.

It is rightly said that the best medicine in prevention, and this is especially true when it comes to medication mistakes. You may find this information helpful, but it should not be taken as legal advice.

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