Common Prescription Errors
Your best protection against deadly prescription mistakes? Defensive action when you grab that white paper bag at the pharmacy.
By Sari Harrar
O, The Oprah Magazine | From the September 2009 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
What Can Go Wrong: Michelle LaRowe, a Hyannis, Massachusetts, mom, knew something was wrong when the label on her 10-month-old daughter's liquid antibiotic, cephalexin, called for three teaspoons, three times a day. "It was too much," she told a local newspaper. A call to the drugstore revealed that the prescribed dose was really three cc—about a half-teaspoon. The pharmacy had inadvertently written the metric dose in teaspoons, an overload that could have proved fatal.
How Common: Statistics on drugstore dosage mistakes are hard to come by, but in one study that tracked all the prescriptions filled in a large, busy Boston hospital, nearly 4 percent had dosage errors. And in a University of Arizona study published earlier this year, of the electronic prescriptions filled at 68 chain pharmacies, 18 percent of errors were related to dosage.
What You Can Do: Again, review the dose—the strength of your prescription and how often and how much you should take—with your doctor; have her write down the prescription separately, and then recheck it with your pharmacist when you pick up your drugs. Potential pitfalls abound, including poor handwriting and confusing prescription-pad abbreviations.